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Back to School Season for Ecommerce Sellers: Your Ultimate Study Guide

Class is back in session! Well..almost. While we may be in the throes of summer heat right now, back-to-school shopping is already top of mind for many consumers–especially with Amazon Prime Day right around the corner. As more and more shoppers turn to ecommerce for a convenient back-to-school shopping experience it’s important that ecommerce sellers looking to maximize sales throughout the season start preparing well in advance.

In this blog, we’ll review the importance of the back-to-school season for ecommerce sellers, historical trends in consumer behavior, and provide you with a timeline for preparing. Plus, we’ll share tips and tricks to help you ensure that you ace the back-to-school season for your ecommerce shop. 

Importance of back-to-school season for ecommerce

Just like other seasonal shopping events, the back-to-school season for ecommerce sellers is ripe with potential sales and revenue. According to a survey conducted by Capital One Shopping in 2023, 55% of K-12 and 49% of college aged back-to-school shoppers made purchases online, and that number is only expected to increase. Altogether consumers spent over $135 billion on the back-to-school season last year, meaning that there are huge profits to be had for ecommerce sellers interested in participating. 

As the second-largest retail season, following the winter holidays, the back-to-school season for ecommerce business is the perfect time to accelerate your sales throughout Q3. Whether you’re a private label seller whose products fit the back-to-school season naturally or an Amazon wholesaler or arbitrage seller looking to take advantage of a time sensitive opportunity, the back-to-school season for ecommerce can be a game changer in reaching quarterly or yearly goals. 

When is back-to-school season? 

Each year consumers are beginning to prepare for the next semester earlier and earlier, in hopes of finding the best deals. Although summer vacation has just begun, Prime Day in July will mark the unofficial beginning of the back-to-school season for ecommerce sellers and retailers. After reaching its peak in early September, the back-to-school season stretches all the way into early October to accommodate families still rushing to collect all the supplies they need. 

However, a long shopping season doesn’t mean that you should wait to prepare your ecommerce business. By preparing your ecommerce business now you’ll be ahead of the curve and can maximize sales potential–quickly rising to the top of the class. Plus the earlier your ecommerce business is prepared, the more you can maximize your sales throughout.

The back-to-school timeline for ecommerce sellers 

While there are no hard deadlines for back-to-school season for ecommerce sellers, early preparation ensures flexibility and agility for your business. Especially if you’re running an Amazon business that utilizes Amazon FBA for fulfillment it’s critical that products arrive at the necessary warehouses before demand surges. That’s why we’ve put together a loose timeline for back-to-school sales:

Late June: Acquire funding & place inventory orders

Mid-July: Prime Day kicks off unofficial start to back-to-school season

Late July: Begin PPC & other ad campaigns 

Early August: Inventory arrives at warehouses 

Mid-August: Inventory is ready for fulfillment

Early September: Peak back-to-school season shopping

Historically, the back-to-school season has been characterized by a spike in sales as parents purchase school supplies, clothing, technology and electronics, and dorm essentials for their children. However, it’s important to understand that while the average consumer is a parent, decisions are heavily influenced by their children, ranging from grades K-12 to college-aged. As a result, the most popular products tend to be trendy and keep with the latest fads. 

While spending for back-to-school supplies has continued to increase year over year there have been periodic declines in individual back-to-school categories, especially clothing and technology. To ensure that your ecommerce business is fully optimized for this year’s trends, make sure to be tracking the sales and demand forecasts for products closely. This is especially important for Amazon wholesalers and Amazon arbitrage sellers who need to ensure optimized inventory levels. 

Back-to-school related keywords are already trending upwards, meaning that consumers are beginning their research and preparing to make a purchase. But, what products are they after? There are a variety of back-to-school niches that your business can take advantage of, including: 

School Supplies 

Parents, especially of children in grades K-12, are on the hunt for quality school supplies at a good price. This includes pencil cases, backpacks, glue sticks, folders, pencils and erasers, and notebooks. 

While reusable products like backpacks and pencil cases often sell well for private label ecommerce businesses, disposable products tend to be more advantageous for Amazon wholesaler and arbitrage sellers. This is because name brand products, like Crayola, Elmers, and Five Star are established household names.

Technology & Electronics 

Students heading back to class this fall are in need of the latest technology to keep them connected and up to date. College students, especially, are on the lookout for the best deals as they prepare for the new semester. 

Keep in mind though that the higher price point for these items makes them particularly susceptible to selling out during large sales, so be mindful of your inventory. 

Dorm Essentials

As young adults prepare to move into their new dorm rooms and apartments for college there is also a surge of sales in home and kitchen items. Due to limited budgets, affordable, sturdy items often see the best results for ecommerce sellers, however trendy dorm room items are also popular. 

Although separate from the Back to School Shop, Amazon also offers a College Shop highlighting sellers on the marketplace who offer items that fit consumer demands. This is the perfect place to get your item in front of more potential buyers, driving brand awareness and revenue. 

Study Guide: Strategies for back-to-school season for ecommerce

Inventory Management 

The key to a successful back-to-school season for ecommerce sellers is effective inventory management and well-organized timelines. If you understock on popular products, you’ll risk missing out on sales while, on the other hand, overstocking can leave you with excess inventory that’s costly to store. To optimize your inventory orders make sure that you’ve accurately forecasted consumer demand based on current and historical data. 

Adapt your product content 

The best ecommerce sellers know how to refresh their marketing and promotional materials periodically to connect with their target customers. By creating a tailored product catalog for back-to-school season and running promotions that cater to customer demands you’ll likely be able to secure extra sales. 

Bundles 

In recent years back-to-school supply kits have become a popular way for parents to make shopping easier by reducing the number of necessary decisions. According to Jungle Scout, by the first week of August 2022, back-to-school supply kit sales were up 346% year-over-year on Amazon. By bundling products into a back-to-school supply kit you can take a hold of a new product SKU to reach more customers, drive sales and profits, and capitalize on the season.

Note: Make sure any bundles you offer, especially on Amazon, comply with all of your ecommerce marketplace’s policies and standards, along with those of your supplier. 

Tap into Social Media

With each generation spending more and more time online, the back-to-school season for ecommerce sellers has become progressively more connected to social media. More than half of parents say they are planning to use social media to assist in back-to-school shopping, especially when it comes to searching for a good deal. This means that targeted social media ads are likely to come at the perfect time, driving potential customers straight to your product listings. Plus, teenagers and college students are also highly influenced by their favorite social media stars, making this the perfect time to capitalize on influencer marketing strategies

Start with Prime Day

Although definitely on the early side of the season, Prime Day has become the unofficial start of the back-to-school season for ecommerce. If your business has a presence on Amazon’s marketplace already, Prime Day is the perfect time to drive sales and traffic to your business with deals. 

Treat the shopping event as a preview of all your back-to-school sales to come, but be careful to plan ahead. The post-Prime Day slump is real so be sure that you’re well stocked up on inventory for beyond the event, and that you have a plan in place to keep your cash flow moving while you wait for Amazon payouts. 

Promotional Sales

If you’re running a private label ecommerce business, many sellers take advantage of the seasonality that comes with back-to-school by running limited-time promotions and sales. By utilizing seasonal marketing materials, marketplace sales (including Amazon’s Back-to-School store, and discounts, like coupons, ecommerce sellers are able to highlight short term offers and streamline shopping to improve the customer experience. 

To make the most of promotional sales, it’s best to start ramping up marketing efforts ahead of time. Learn more about how to strategically take advantage of marketing opportunities for seasonal events here

How do you afford back-to-school season?

The back-to-school season is often a highlight in ecommerce sellers calendars, and for good reason. As customers are looking to shop increasingly earlier and budgets remain healthy, ecommerce sellers stand to gain immense revenue and profit when they plan ahead. This is a huge opportunity to get ahead on those yearly goals and outsell competitors, especially as ecommerce marketplaces become more and more saturated. 

If you’re looking to make the most of the new semester you’re going to need an expert ecommerce funding tutor with the resources to help you succeed. That’s where Viably comes in. Viably is a people-first banking and funding experience, designed to help ecommerce sellers grow their business the way they know best. With tailor-made funding offers, you can have the working capital you need to stock up for back-to-school season in your business bank account as soon as tomorrow.

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