How Brands Are Prepping for Pivotal Back to School

Kimberly Surico |
 07/13/20 |
5 min read

How Brands Are Prepping for Pivotal Back to School

Smart brands are prepping for every eventuality in a pivotal back to school year. From decreasing lead times for marketing, to creating alternate advertisements for all circumstances, brands are actively dancing to consumers’ beat. Having the most accurate and relevant insights for every possible scenario is vital for brands to stay one step ahead of this unpredictable virus, as it affects everything, including education. They need to be ready to chalk the blackboard, erase, and chalk again as many times as the current situation dictates. And here’s how that will look.

Life is moving fast in our locked-down world, leaving little room for error. Having options available is smart planning. And we’ll share why that is and how to do it, as well as:

  • Being Prepared to Pivot – how to meet demands as they happen thanks to market research and social analytics
  • Marketing Musts in a Post-COVID World – how to be prepared, not surprised
  • Super Brands Set to Entice – brands that are meeting consumer needs outside of offering 50% off

And keep these stats in mind as you start your planning process:

  • Two-thirds of K-12 parents and 62% of college-age parents are nervous about their kids going back to school.
  • 51% of parents say they plan to increase their spending on virtual learning tools
  • 50% of shoppers say they’ll seek options like buying online
  • Spending on tech items, like computers, jumped 28%.

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Being Prepared to Pivot

Parents and students are shopping for school supplies while preparing to pivot at a moment’s notice. According to research by online retailer Zulily, 46% of parents biggest concern is public health, and they aren’t alone. 66% of K-12 parents and 62% of college-age parents are anxious about sending their children back to school.

This is where next generation AI-powered predictive analysis can help brands meet the everchanging world of consumer concerns.

Our conversation cluster shows the discussion below. From Back to School Plans to COVID19 Fears and School Supplies Program Donations – conversation is multi-faceted. Each cluster reveals more about what is being said, revealing what brands need to know to drive sales:


And we can see what our consumers feel about what’s being said with our sentiment analysis summary.


And it can all be aggregated in a social analytics dashboard. This is an overarching snapshot that allows brands to monitor customer experience (CX) and brand health while delivering competitive insights, category analysis and even campaign tracking. It can be customized to fit your brand, delivering just the information you want, with live reports focused on your category of interest.

One piece of it can include top sentiment drivers – both social and news media – giving us a deeper view into how consumers feel. Red indicates negative sentiment, and green positive.


This intel helps retailers strategize around key campaign tactics, including the most effective time to send emails to their customers. Key data like conversation and engagement offers insight around what customers want and when, allowing brands to share appropriate content quickly.

And with anxiety and fear being drivers for spending, paying particular attention to these emotions can help brands help rather than drive away weary consumers.

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Marketing Musts in Post-COVID World

Marketing in a post-corona world is all about the 3 S’s – according to one article: Sensitivity, Simplicity and Solutions.

Two-thirds of surveyed parents said they were anxious about sending their child to school amid a pandemic. And retail faces a similar dilemma. 50% of shoppers say they’ll seek options like buying online, up 36% from 2019.

And some think the boost eCommerce will see from this will be permanent, making investing in online sales a must for brands.

We can see in the graph below from Statista that eCommerce is projected to grow. In January, it was expected to account for 16% of all global sales in 2020. And back-to-school sales will certainly fuel this.


And it’s important for brands to look at ALL marketing communications to be sure they’re communicating clearly and with compassion. Kohl’s Corp., for example, is closely monitoring the consumer landscape, via social analytics. The company is “really making sure we’re ready to respond as we see where the customer goes and what the demands are,” said Chief Executive Officer Michelle Gass.

And they’re right to watch, as consumers have concerns – though the concerns revolve around children returning to school in general. So, perhaps making plans around the online schooling that is inevitable is wise:


Electronics Are Everything Right Now

And with school safety a concern and online schooling a distinct possibility, more parents are buying electronics. Best Buy realized that spending on tech items, such as computers, jumped 28%.


Best Buy is sure to see some of those profits. However right now they are focused on helping by bringing tech to Minnesota students for continuing education. And “giving” is always a good look for brands, as research shows that shoppers prefer to buy from charitable companies.


Exploring social analytics, preparing for ramped up ecommerce, and working ‘giving’ into your planning are all musts right now . . . as well as having hand sanitizer at the ready. And there are still solid ways for brands to entice back-to-school consumers – they just take a little insight to find. Let’s explore a few . . .

Super Brands Set to Entice

With 40% of parents worried about making upcoming college-related payments, it’s wise for brands to have a money saving offers on tap. Though, it’s also important to note that consumers are worn out and may balk at scanning barcodes for rebates. Extra work right now could be enough to send them, and their dollars, elsewhere. Keeping things simple and direct is important.

Walmart is streamlining educational material offerings, with designated sections for teachers and virtual learning tools on its website. The world’s largest retailer is providing contactless delivery and ordering options to consumers everywhere.


And they aren’t alone. Mattel is offering free online resources to parents of littles, continuing throughout the school year, with storytimes, downloadable learning posters, virtual card games and much more. And with 51% of parents planning to increase spending on virtual learning tools, these free resources could help foster a deeper connection and appreciation of Mattel, contributing to its overall brand health.


Every brand has a different strategy this school year. Whether it’s donations, deep discounts or free online resources, there is no one right way to do it. However, having social analytics inform what that key mix of options should be is important, as it will be different depending on your target consumers’ needs.

Accurate and transparent consumer and market intelligence will help your brand make those vital decisions. Reach out for a demo!

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