Back-to-School Gets Retail Back on Track

Jonathan Gardner

Back-to-school, the number-two “shopping holiday” in the US, is peak season for consumer brands and fashion retail. These categories are naturally image-centric, with tremendous opportunity for brands to leverage their visual content and help shoppers along the discovery-to-purchase pathway.

According to Pinterest and the National Retail Federation, families spent $83.6 billion during the season in 2017, including $29.5 billion on K-12 supplies and $54.1 billion on college goods. Families with kids in elementary school spent an average of $687 each.

But with all the talk of “retail apocalypse,” online ad fraud and the decreasing efficacy of traditional advertising, consumer brands and retailers are looking for new, efficient ways of shepherding shoppers from discover-to-buy. As we’ve seen, retailing faces challenges that can be met with smart engagement strategies.

Top consumer, fashion and retail brands work with ShareIQ to understand and optimize how their visual content performs and helps consumers discover products online.

It becomes especially critical for marketers in competitive sectors (e.g. apparel and CPG) to know exactly how their product images help people to become fans, and fans to become customers. Even more so when you’re talking about billions of dollars in spending by a fickle, content-sharing demographic such as school- and college-aged students.

Content engagement and optimization of earned media can impact all sales channels. NRF data show that students (and their families) will back-to-school shop at a variety of retailers, including traditional brick-and-mortar and online. The value of a smart visual content optimization strategy comes into especially sharp focus when you look at ecommerce: These consumers are moving their buying online and are spreading it aroundshopping at four different websites on average, and taking advantage of Amazon Prime Day and other promotions. And, social media is frequently where products and brands are being discovered: 90 percent of Pinterest users said they come to the site for ideas on products to purchase.

For back-to-school, Black Friday, or year-round revenue, brands tell us there are five compelling reasons to get smart about content and how it is shared, re-posted, and engaged with by audiences:

  1. Visual assets need to be managed. How are your images being shared? You spent a lot of money creating content to help sell your products. Those images are online and will be shared in perpetuity. This investment needs to be understood, analyzed and optimized.
  2. The way people communicate is now largely visual. Sharing images online and across social platforms is how consumers learn about brands, and which ones are meaningful to the influencers around them.
  3. Brands need to monitor how the public engages with them on social media. If you don’t understand the value and dynamics of the visual component, only half the story is being communicated. Some fashion brands spend millions a year on visual content that they surface in advertising, on retail sites, in social media campaigns, etc.
  4. You’re in a very competitive marketplace. The stakes have never been higher when it comes to selling to the same audiences. It is invaluable to go deep to understand what your competitors are doing with their visual content. Imagine the reckoning confronting a fast fashion brand that willingly remains ignorant of the visual assets and strategy that other brands in their category use to launch new lines and sales efforts. 
  5. You want to work with influencers. Brands are using influencer marketing to get their content discovered, build some viral fire and reap the resulting sales. But here’s the question: It’s easy to throw hundreds of thousand of dollars at a famous influencer, expecting this will result in engagement and sales. But how many of those efforts really pan out? 

With research showing that back-to-school shopping is starting earlier than ever, it may feel that you're already late to the game. However, smart visual content marketing strategies teach valuable lessons brands can apply all year long.

Check out a free eBook to learn how to get more ROI from your earned media
Back-to-school, the number-two “shopping holiday” in the US, is peak season for consumer brands and fashion retail
Jonathan Gardner

Jonathan is vice president of marketing for ShareIQ, based in New York City.