Why social proof messages are more crucial than ever to win 2022 back-to-class spend

Alison Wiltshire

02 Jun 2022

This year the back-to-class period has meant one equation has become more important than ever.

Value + quality = happy parents.

The current cost of living crisis as US consumers face high inflation rates and energy prices, has meant that consumers are under financial pressure generally. But inflationary pressure is also impacting back-to-school essentials such as clothes and school supplies, with 68% of US consumers saying they’ve seen higher prices.

Yet they aren’t cutting spending, with more than a third (38%) saying they are cutting back in other spending areas to cover the cost of items for the upcoming school year, according to NRF’s latest survey.

NRF expects 2022’s back-to-school spend to hit $36.9 billion, up from $37.1 billion last year and a rise from $849 to $864 per household. Back-to-college spending is also expected to rise from 2021’s $71 billion to $73.9 billion this year.

The sustained spend shows that consumers are willing to invest but they will be expecting both keen prices AND excellent quality. For retailers promoting these key messages will be critical to winning spend.

Social proof messaging can help to guide purchasing decisions. It can help surface product features that will help customers buy more easily. This is important in more complicated product areas, such as electronics which forms the biggest share of back-to-school spend. $13 billion is expected to be spent on electronics by back-to-school shoppers and $18 billion by back-to-college shoppers.

Understanding what is selling at that moment in time with trending messaging also helps narrow down what can sometimes be an overwhelming range of products. It uses a retailer’s real-time data to highlight popular products at the time of browsing which can help shoppers understand what other students will be heading back-to-school with.

The real-time aspect of the data used is not only important for identifying what’s popular at that particular point in time but can also be helped to warn shoppers when the stock of items they are browsing is running low. Although the NRF survey showed that 56% of back-to-class shoppers had started browsing and buying from early July there are always last-minute shoppers too.

Urgency messaging will warn shoppers that stocks are low or that items are selling fast, helping to secure the purchase for the retailer while also ensuring the student returning to class isn’t missing vital items from their list and making the parent’s life a whole lot easier.

And finally, aggregated review messaging helps in that all-important value plus quality equation we mentioned earlier. By aggregating reviews and integrating them into social proof messaging retailers can nudge customers to add to basket, safe in the knowledge that they’ve made a good buying decision. Messages might include fit advice, such as 94% of customers said this runs large, or impressions of quality, such as 90% of customers rated this 4 stars for quality.  

It means customers can be sure they are getting the value and quality they are after while retailers can maximize the back-to-class sales opportunity. And that definitely deserves top marks.

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