BACK-TO-COLLEGE: Marketing to Students Requires Social Relevance and Responsible Pricing

BACK-TO-COLLEGE: Marketing to Students Requires Social Relevance and Responsible Pricing

This post is part of CMG’s ‘Back-to-College’ Blog Series, featuring relevant and insightful information pertaining to both the youth retail industry and the college student demographic.

Twenty million students are expected to be attending college this fall. That’s a massive opportunity, for businesses that thrive on the ‘back-to-college’ season, to sell things like dorm room furnishings, mobile devices, computers, and of course, clothing.

In order for businesses to capture their share of the back-to-college market they’ll need to develop offers and promotions that are both enticing and relevant to the student, and at a price point that Moms and Dads won’t say no to.

When it comes to back-to-college purchases, parents are most likely to be the ones being asked to foot the bill. And for parents to feel convinced that what they’re buying is, well, worth buying, they have to believe in the marketing message too!

Businesses know parents tend to take many of their cues directly from their student children (or at least they should know that). Nearly three-quarters of parents say their children influence at least half of their back-to-school purchases.

The spending power may be with the student, but businesses shouldn’t take Mom and Dad’s opened wallets for granted. Remember, students are just as savvy about online comparison shopping and coupon saving as their (old school) parents are, and would be quick to sniff out an over-priced, under-socialized product.

Please read our Report: More Students are Shopping and Spending Online..

So how should businesses not only best market their product, but also stay relevant with their social message? Our team here at Collegiate Marketing Group has researched some statistics on what works best:

  • Start the conversation early! – According to fellow marketers MRY, the back-to-college conversation is becoming more and more perpetual throughout the year. College-bound students start connecting with their fellow peers as early as February and March, discussing everything from college acceptances in early spring to topics such as roommates, room assignments and orientation in June, July and beyond.

These students socialize about everything! From the exact size of their beds to how they should be accessorizing their rooms. Students would rather turn to their peers to find out how to best prepare and what they really need as opposed to taking the information from a college welcoming kit.

A BIG insight survey found that 29% of all back-to-college shoppers are starting to shop at least two months before school starts, which is up significantly over last year (24.4%), and highest in the survey’s history!

  • Roll out a social campaign aimed at college shoppers – MRY also states that 50% of the ‘Class of 2015’ have over 300 friends on Facebook, 43% have “liked” more than 23 brands, 40% visit Facebook more than 10 times per day, and 58% use Twitter “all the time”. If college students are among your targeted customer base, then Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are three of the most important platforms for you to engage with your audience.
  • Make sure your marketing plan includes having a Mobile website – Two out of three students access social sites from their smartphone. Uploading photos via mobile devices is steadily increasing for the benefit of shopper decision-making. For example, 3 out of 10 consumers aged 18 to 34 years old have taken a picture of a product, sent pictures of products to friends, texted or called friends about products, and/or searched for a nearby store.

Mobile devices are quite simply enabling people to engage in a dialogue and commentary about the world around them. Retailers need to ensure that their sites and branched off site platforms are optimized for mobile devices. Ensure that whatever marketing message you’re trying to convey to your audience works well on mobile devices, and that customers have the resources necessary to easily spread the word about back-to-college ideas and solutions that they find.

  • Direct Emailing – Those emails which had an offer in the subject line had a 21% higher transaction rate than those without in 2011.
  • Key Words – Online search traffic was up 10% with search key words like “back-to-school clothes” and “back-to-school deals” driving the increase. Therefore, your blogs on products and deals should include as many of those key words as possible so it can register among Google’s more popular search results.
  • Know who you are targeting – Searchers tend to be female and between the ages of 25 and 44.

For more information on how our team of professionals at Collegiate Marketing Group can help your business with its student marketing plan, please visit our website at and connect with us via our Quick Connect.