How to make the most of 2021’s back-to-school opportunity using social proof

For students across the UK, life was a little different during the pandemic. They swapped desks for kitchen tables; ditched uniforms for jeans and swapped lunchboxes for beans on toast. And they’ve been out of school more often than in it (or at least it feels that way!).

But as pandemic restrictions ease there’s a renewed excitement around September’s back-to-school period that retail marketers should use social proof to embrace. Students from primary-age starters to university newbies will (hopefully) be returning to their first full year in education since 2019 as lockdown learning comes to an end.

But as any long-suffering parent will know, the back-to-school shop isn’t always the easiest of summer jobs. Below we look at how you can use different social proof messaging types to maximise back-to-school spend, as well as make it less of a headache for busy parents – whether they are kitting out the bags of their pre-schoolers or the university halls of their teenagers.

1) Attribute messaging – helping parents navigate feature-rich products

While value remains critical post-Covid, product features and the understanding of them is also vital – whether that’s computer specs or the latest in fabric technology.

For example, school uniforms can feature everything from dirt-repellent cotton to combat the most dirt-seeking child in the playground to crease-resistant fabrics that will minimise the dreaded ironing pile on a Sunday night.

Guiding customers through this myriad of choices is essential to enable them to find the right product for their needs. Attribute messaging works by surfacing those must-have features to make that choice easier and quicker.

2) Trending messaging – helping parents buy the latest must-have items

You’d think that since most schools enforce uniforms that it’s simply a job of ticking off the items on the back-to-school checklist and job done.

But it’s a naive (or inexperienced!) parent that thinks the job is that simple. Whether it’s school shoes, PE kit bag or pencil case students, young and old, will usually demand to follow the latest fashions, especially the older they get. But how is a parent supposed to know if that £30 backpack their son or daughter is demanding that they simply MUST have really is the one item that all their friend’s parents are also splashing out on?

Trending messaging will help to surface items that are selling fast and are the latest must-have – ensuring children return to school on-trend and ready for a little playground bragging. And, after the disruption they’ve had, don’t they deserve a little indulgence?  

3) Review messaging – helping assure parents they are making the right choice

Review messaging helps retailers share customer review data around purchases that can help customers harness the knowledge of others that have bought before them. Do those scuff-resistant shoes really live up to the hype, and if my 13-year-old is the size of a 16-year-old, what size trousers should I choose? How durable is the fabric of the trousers – as any parent of boys knows, tearing on the knees is always a problem!

Aggregating review messaging and harnessing the power of other customers’ opinions of products also reduces the risk of returns, ensuring customers get the right product first time, rather than having to re-order days before the new term begins. That not only means that their child is prepared for the return to school but also that vital stock is in your hands at the time of maximum resale potential – allowing you to satisfy even more customers.  

4) Urgency messaging – helping warn parents that stocks are low

Some parents are highly organised and plan the back-to-school shop before the children have even ended their current school year. And there are those for whom snack-fuelled crazy summer growth spurts, or just other life priorities mean that back-to-school shopping is more of a last-minute affair.

Urgency messaging helps to warn parents that stock levels are getting low on items – vital if your child is a particularly hard-to-get shoe size or your teenager is demanding the latest hi-tech laptop. It means parents are more informed and, therefore, more likely to order early to secure their item allowing you greater control over your inventory.

The value of social proof messaging throughout the back-to-school shopping trip

Each of these messaging types has a different role in improving the back-to-school shopping experience, and used in conjunction with each other, will ensure you maximise both experience and conversion. You will have reduced the decision-making time and increased the likelihood of purchase – and have loyal customers every season.

And for many parents, that will put you top of the class – or earn you a gold star at the very least.

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