BTS in the age of corona: it’s not all about the store

There are many ways to prepare for back-to-school 

Back-to-school (BTS) shopping is no longer a one-day stockingup spree, as consumer habits change amid the Covid-19 pandemic
Today’s consumers are specific about what they want, and they will take the time to find it – and have it delivered.
Retailers have an opportunity to capitalise on this attitude shift by beginning with your BTS preparation as soon as possible. Prepare early to give your store (bricks-and-mortar and online) a greater chance to compete successfully. 
For smaller businesses, it’s better to start your preparations sooner rather than later. You don’t want to be scrambling to put your plans together. By then you’ll be too late – and you’ll miss out on sales. 
Some of the preparations listed below take time to put together. For example, it takes weeks for keyword targeting, a part your SEO strategy, to produce results. You might also need to upgrade your technology to provide a better customer experience. Technology implementation takes time. 
If you want to be successful, you should start now to get a leg-up on your competition. 
The following is a must-do checklist for the back-to-school shopping season

Make your site mobile friendly 
It’s important to know where your customers are conducting the product research when buying their back-to-school supplies. Is it online or in-store? 
The Internet is being used more often for both back-to-school product searches and purchases. According to data from Google40% of back-to-school searches were done on mobile in 2014, showing a 25% increase year-on-year. 
Merchants should have a responsive site that enables back-to-school shoppers to easily compare products. A responsive site provides an optimal viewing experience for viewers across all devices, from desktops to mobiles. 
Your shoppers must be able to search your back-to-schools deals on their mobile devices with minimal panning, re-sizing or scrolling. They’ll stay on your site for longer periods of time without getting frustrated. The easier you make searching for them, the more likely they’ll be to find what they want and buy it.
If your site isn’t mobile friendly, it will hurt your ability to rank highly in search engine results. Lower rankings make it harder for customers to find you. 
Giving back-to-school shoppers the option to search and buy on mobile is important to your selling success. Shoppers will use their mobile devices to search for back-to-school supplies. Become mobile friendly to make it easy for them to find and buy from you. 

Improve your product listings
With the increase in online shopping during this time, it’s important to provide customers with the best customer experience you can on your site or marketplaces. A lot goes into creating an unforgettable customer experience. A lot of that experience has to do with your product information. 
Better product information means increased product findability through search engines; better site navigation; and richer product descriptions: all things that help convert more back-to-school shoppers into buyers.
Your product listings should be accurate, complete and rich with detailed information. Shoppers can then find the items they need on their back-to-school list more quickly. They’ll also be confident that they’re buying exactly what they need. 
However, managing your product information is usually a pain point for merchants. It can be difficult to update and optimise your data just for back-to-school supplies or sales. It might seem impossible for you to get it done in time for this season. 
product information management (PIM) solution can help you get this task done in time. You’ll be able to make bulk updates to your information, and build collections specifically made-up of back-to-school items, all from your master catalogue of products. 
Don’t settle for sub-par product information. It will harm your chance to be competitive and successful this back-to-school season. 

Brainstorm unique marketing campaigns
The best part of the back-to-school shopping season is having the chance to have fun with it. Think of creative ways to engage your shoppers.  
Unique marketing campaigns help inspire participation from customers. It boosts your brand image. Get your team together and see what your team can come up with. 

Plan and execute SEO strategy
Back-to-school searches grow year on year, with many of those shoppers leveraging search engines like Google to find the BTS items they need. 
If your back-to-school products and promotions rank well in search engine results, shoppers can more easily discover what you’re offering. To achieve higher rankings, you’ll need to plan your SEO strategy carefully. 
Back-to-school searches can start as early as August, and three- to four weeks additional lead time is recommended for any content to gain SEO rankings. If you consider that top search terms will be “back to school, “school supplies, “school shopping,” and “back to school sales, it makes sense that smaller or mid-sized retailers, with less brand equity, will struggle to rank toward the top of such competitive keywords. A good solution to this problem is “longtailing” keywords – in other words, making them more niche and specific to your business. 
For example, instead of “school supplies”, try target “premium school supplies Johannesburg South”. The search volume will be lower for that keyword, but it will be easier to gain a ranking for because the audience is extremely targeted. 
Think about your offering and how potential shoppers will search for your products. You’ll want to create and target your messaging to include these types of keywords. Start your SEO plan as soon as possible to reach those early searchers.

What back-to-school looks like amid a pandemic
Many retailers are expecting a drop in sales as “back-to-school” remains more of a metaphor than a reality in many countries around the world. The Covid-19 pandemic has heightened the need for an online presence among stationery retailers, as many parents are uncomfortable shopping in bricks-and-mortar stores, despite safety protocols.

In addition, the wave of online schooling has resulted in a drop in traditional stationery items, but has pushed items in the technology sector, such as tablets and screens, to the forefront of consumers’ minds.

Back-to-school and back-to-university is one of the biggest retail events of the year. It’s an opportunity you don’t want to miss out on. Merchants should start preparing now so they won’t be left scrambling at the beginning of the BTS season
Whether you’re ready or not, back-to-school searches are going to start soon. Be ready to compete and be successful this season. 


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