Back-to-school shopping represents a £1.45 billion industry for retailers in the UK, with research showing that the average British household spent £397 on new gadgets at the start of the new school year in 2016 – three times the amount reported in 2015.

What’s more, the traditional school shopping experience has evolved considerably, with half of UK consumers now researching products on a mobile device before making a purchase. 

Increasingly, back-to-school shoppers flock to social to find out about promotions as well as to research products and ideas. As purchase intent on these platforms reaches an all-time high, advertisers are wise to pay attention to the below ten recommendations in order to implement an A+ paid social strategy this year.

It’s all in the planning 

UK consumers spent £82.17 billion at retailers across July, August and September last year. Getting ahead of the game will help your brand avoid missing out on potential customers. Concentrating your media spend earlier in the season can also allow you to capitalise on high-return, early bird shoppers, and introduce lower-funnel targeting tactics to close the purchase loop in August.

Research has found that three-quarters of UK back-to-school customers begin their shopping three or more weeks before the term starts. Older students require much more gear and technology than the average primary school pupil, forcing them to plan earlier, and spend more. So A-Level and college students are the ideal target audience for early, high-price point advertising on planning platforms like Pinterest.  

Multi-platform approach

There were 30 million back-to-school searches on Pinterest alone in 2016, and 47% of shoppers report that seeing back-to-school content on Twitter motivates them to start heading to stores. 

That said, Facebook mobile is the platform of choice for most users to share the back-to-school sentiment. Make sure your brand is present across channels and become part of the conversation through carefully planned multi-platform initiatives.

Mobile first

Take note: back-to-school conversations happen over 10 times more often on mobile than desktop, while over half of online sales in the UK are made through mobile devices. Ensure your content is optimised to fully capitalise on this growing trend.


With so much back-to-school engagement occurring on smartphones, the ultimate on-the-go device, using geographic targeting is key to driving consumers into stores.

Snapchat’s new Snap to Store feature tracks in-store traffic back to campaigns on the platform. If your brand is running a back-to-school sponsored geo-filter or lens, the measurement tool can assess how many users visit a store location after seeing your ads.

Cater to multiple audiences

Back-to-school shoppers include parents and caregivers, primary and secondary pupils, A-Level and college students, as well as teachers, so be sure your creative speaks to the right users at the right time.

Segment your audiences by age, since college students have very different needs than primary school pupils and will be looking for different products. Know your audience and tailor creative accordingly. 

Be a part of the conversation

Social media users will be doing more than just researching and buying school supplies; they are also likely to search for school lunch inspiration, outfit ideas, ways to commemorate the first day of school or ‘hacks’ for the home or classroom. There are many ways for brands to get involved and be helpful.

Brands that don’t offer back to school-specific products can still capitalise on the season by using strategic keywords. Mentioning campus, dorms, homework, or other buzzwords will help such advertisers join the conversation.

Deals and promotions

Research has found that some 89% of teachers will go out of their way to shop at stores that offer teacher discounts. Be sure to highlight these promotions in your ad creative.

Similarly, seven out of ten shoppers say that they will lean on Twitter to find deals and research purchases this back-to-school season. And it’s no surprise to learn that promotions matter when deciding which high price-point tech items to buy. 

Eye-catching creative 

The back-to-school season offers the promise of new beginnings. This can be exciting for brands and consumers alike. Have fun with your creative, employing bright colours and utilising plenty of video, which continues to grow in popularity. 

Facebook’s carousel ad format allows brands to showcase multiple products across Facebook and Instagram. And more than two-thirds of millennials say tweets with product images help them make purchase decisions, so use rich visuals to stand out in the Twitter feed and attract attention from younger shoppers.

‘Pinners’ also appreciate content that is both visual and helpful. Make sure your promoted pins are actionable and appealing to the eye. When it comes to preparing for the school year ahead, Pinterest users are interested in everything from outfits and hairstyles to organisation tricks, supplies, activities, and lunch ideas.

Buy online, pick up in store

More than half of back-to-school or back-to-college shoppers take advantage of a buy online, pick up in store offer. With many older students travelling far from home to attend college, customers can do their online shopping at home and pick up their products at a store location closer to their campus.

Act now

Back-to-school marketing has begun and many brands are already pushing deals and savings. This is a resilient shopping season; it’s needs-driven, but whether you offer clothes, school supplies or electronics, don’t wait to act or you may miss out on a huge revenue opportunity.