It’s hard to imagine that summer is almost over, with learners heading back to the classroom. For marketers, back to school season is just around the corner.

Just kidding.

Back to school season is already here, and the time to plan was six months ago. The opportunity for procrastinators has passed. If you’re thinking about investing in a big campaign, you’re probably better off waiting until next year -- and using those marketing dollars to amplify your holiday initiatives.

What you should be focused on are subtle conversion rate optimization (CRO) tactics that amplify your already-strong growth levers. In other words, don’t think big-picture. Focus on tactical details that guide shoppers from the moment of discovery through the point of sale. Here are 4 ideas for inspiration:

1. Increase up-sell opportunities by optimizing your product recommendations

Ecommerce giants are well-aware that ‘related products’ are crucial for driving conversions. Depending on the level of sophistication, these widgets map shoppers to items that they’re likely to love -- often, based on past shopping behavior.

ow is a good time to take a step back and examine how you’re categorizing items for back to school. Depending on the size of your analytics and engineering teams -- as well as the database technologies and taxonomies that you have in place, you may be able to adjust product recommendations to better-target shoppers with items that they are likely to need. Look no further than Amazon for inspiration:

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2. Test easily-adjustable variables like coupon code values and free-shipping offers

Are you running a promotion on or off-site? If you’re anticipating heavy website traffic, now is the perfect time to experiment with different types of coupon codes (for instance, 20% vs. $20 off) and shipping offers (free shipping vs. no free shipping).

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These findings can provide generalizable insight about your unique customer base -- information than incorporate into future campaigns over the holidays, for instance. 

Depending on your business model and size, back-to-school season may not even be the right marketing opportunity for your brand. It’s still a time for heavy shopping activity; however, and an ideal opportunity to study shopping behaviors during key sales times.

3. Use email marketing and intent-based retargeting to minimize opportunities for churn

High-volume shopping seasons yield high-volume churn, returns, and shopping cart abandonment. A potentially low touch solution -- depending on your company’s CRM and email marketing infrastructure -- is a triggered email or retargeting campaign that adapts to specific user behaviors.

Remind shoppers when there’s something sitting in their shopping carts -- and while you have their attention, recommend related products that you think they might enjoy.

At the end of the day, back to school season is frantic. Shoppers may very well need a reminder -- they may be procrastinating, distracted, or forgetting to click the final ‘checkout’ button on your website’s conversion flow. Your reminders will be much appreciated, especially from the shoppers who already know and love your company.

4. Plan for next year

The beauty of back to school is that it’s going to happen again next year. The learnings and data gathered this year can be re-positioned into assets for 2015.

No matter what campaigns you’re planning, take a moment to ensure that you’re collecting the data that matters most for your conversion optimization strategy -- for instance, email addresses, purchase intent, and points of churn on your site. Focus on collecting a meaningful customer sample, as well as individual-level shopper data. You can then use this data next year to better inform your back to school strategy.

Final Thoughts

The tactics described above are quite high-level and likely the best fit for companies with significant resources -- rather than small businesses that may be running on shoestring resources. It’s important that your business take the time to evaluate how these ideas fit into your business. In some cases, they won’t -- and that’s okay. Marketers should join forces with IT and analytics teams to see what’s possible and what isn’t -- ultimately, you’ll be able to make the most out of the resources, foundations, and frameworks that your company has already built.

How is your company optimizing its back to school campaigns? What last-minute tactics have been most impactful for you?