Post-Pandemic Back-to-School Retail Trends 2021

It’s that time of the year again. The time for three little words. The words that students fear but retailers love the most – back to school! Though, this year it feels like even students are excited. The long-awaited chance to rejoin extracurricular activities, meet school friends and wear clothes other than pajamas. That thought led us to think that they can’t wait to do back-to-school shopping, either. After being away for so long, they want to walk through those doors on the first day of school with new clothes and school supplies. Of course, when we say “they”, we mean their parents who are most likely to pay the bill. 2020 untangled many of our retail trends and predictions fully and taught us lessons about the retailers’ flexibility.

Digital shopping got a yearly 50% revenue increase during the holidays; while retails has an increase of more than 60%. However, purchases through social media boosted up this ratio to 104%.

This year’s rush in online shopping is here to stay, especially given the obstacles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdown of brick-and-mortar stores. According to a recent study, in 2020, almost 41% of consumers stated that they were currently shopping online for goods they would normally purchase in-store.

Here some key predictions about back-to-school shopping behavior in 2021 are outlined to help retailers prioritize everything from inventory to marketing.

People Will Be Buying in Bulk

Who can forget the great toilet paper stockpiling disaster of 2020? While it’s unlikely that customers will fear the scarcity of school supplies, covid restrictions have altered the mindset of many shoppers. Rather than picking up things that they need most, they tend to stockpile them in fewer trips. Shoppers who sell back-to-school supplies know the run things like pencils, calculators, and notebooks in August and September. But, this year, it makes sense to keep a larger inventory and consider stocking even earlier.

While you are at it, bring in school-adjacent supplies that make things easier for the consumers, including snacks, sports equipment, clothing, and educational games to help shoppers accommodate their mission of shopping more infrequently. Since they are rarely stepping into a store, they might be more suggestible when they’re there.

Online Shopping Will Rule

After a year of pandemic-related retail restrictions on shopping, most of the customers hopped on for online shopping from groceries to clothing to household supplies. And since retailers have stepped up their e-commerce game to make it easier than ever before, we can expect that most of the consumers will continue to enjoy the convenience of shopping online.

It’s crucial to make sure that the website is a fast, mobile-friendly hub where it is easy to point, click and pay. The things to double-check ahead of the back-to-school season include the following: Site performance – is the lightning-fast, easy to use on phone and tablet as it is on the computer are? Product descriptions – are they well written, clear, and include all the important information like size, color, dimensions, etc? Photos and other images – do they load quickly, accurately present the product, are they easily zoomable so that all the shoppers can take a detailed look? Back-to-school marketing – are you designing a back-to-school page for a one-stop shopping experience?

Technology Will Win the Day

Pandemic has taught the customers that technology is mandatory for learning at home. Can a kindergartner “go” to school from home? With a durable laptop and mini headphones – yes! Can a family of six simultaneously operate on separate digital platforms all day? With high functioning computers and a strong wifi connection – they sure can!

Scanners, headphones, printers, webcams, chargers, and other digital devices were the VIPs of the last school year. Now that they know what worked and what didn’t, shoppers will now invest in the technology they think is right to prepare for the school year ahead. Be ready for all the inventory they not only want but need.

An Emphasis on the Shoppers Safety

Disinfectants, hand sanitizers, face masks, air purifiers, and even plexiglass dividers for group activities may be on the back-to-school shopping lists of a lot of buyers this year. Retailers who anticipate after pandemic needs may win the appreciation and loyalty of the shoppers. Make it easy for the shoppers to pick up by grouping the covid precautions products, online and in – stores. Keep them at a competitive price and present them as fun and joyful as possible as opposed to sterile and unsettling.

As we expect back-to-school shopping behavior this year, it’s crucial to keep in mind that much of it will depend upon the state of the pandemic and your local educational system’s response to it. While anything is possible, keeping an eye on the news and considering how it might have an impact on spending habits will be the key to addressing your customers’ needs.

Next Steps

Regardless of the product that you’re selling, or what channel you’re advertising on, below are three recommendations from Julio Lopez, Director of the client strategy, Retail Price, Movable Ink that you can implement in 2021:

Aim for 1:1 Personalization

Customers’ expectations will only be increasing shortly. That is the reason why creating 1:1 experiences in your campaigns – whether it’s personalized product recommendations or a data visualization including loyalty points – will be the key to driving engagement and keeping your customers engaged over time.

Strive for a Single View of Customers

Harnessing your data and using it to power personalized campaigns will be crucial in the coming years. Unfortunately, capturing that data is still a massive challenge for many companies. CDPs can help streamline the flow of the data to create a single view of the consumer – and they’re worth the investment.

Create persistent Omnichannel Experiences

If there is one thing that we have learned in the aftermath of COVID-19, it is that nothing is certain. With some parts of the world reopening and others being closed, it’s never been more important to provide best-in-class experiences no matter where your customers choose to interact with your brand. Consistent, on-brand experiences are a necessity across email, mobile, your website, and beyond.

Final Words

All in all, the retailers should keep their audience’s shopping preferences and regional variation in their minds when preparing for their back-to-school ads in 2021. Retailers can create creative and attractive offers and messages with a flexible approach that reflects consumers’ present needs, help make sales, and build brand loyalty and trust.

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