Ace back-to-school shopping with product recommendations

Schoooooool’s out. For. Summer! If you’re a retailer, that means one important thing: It’s time to get ready for back-to-school shopping — one of the most important shopping events of the year. And though most American consumers believe we are currently in a recession, one survey found that 81% still plan on spending more or the same as last year. The same study found that they plan to start shopping earlier, the majority by the end of July. 

That means it’s time to get your online shop ready for incoming parents and students to earn your piece of the back-to-school pie. Read on to get our tips on some of the best ways to do that with product recommendations!

Why You — Yes, You! — Should Prepare for Back-to-School Shopping

Before we dive in to our product recommendation tips, let’s back up a minute and talk about why you should be planning your whole summer strategy around back-to-school shoppers. For one, the market will be worth an estimated $34.4 billion in 2023, a steady 24% increase in the past four years. And while many consumers plan to be doing a lot of that shopping in big-box stores, even more (76% according to one poll) plan to shop online. In other words, this is a huge opportunity that e-commerce merchants need to be ready for. 

To be ready, of course, means understanding what your back-to-school shoppers need to make their search as easy as possible. They have a lot of different purchases to make: clothing (for kids and adults), school supplies, backpacks, shoes, electronics, beauty and personal supplies, just to name a few of the top ten. They’ll be looking for fast and easy guidance when checking off their lists: they want to find what they need, compare it to other options, and be on their way. That’s why strategic product recommendations can help you meet customer expectations.

Be Strategic: Display the right products at the right time

Product recommendations come in handy during the back-to-school shopping season because they filter your products down to what consumers want. The quicker shoppers find what they’re looking for on your website, the more likely they are to make a purchase. Simple logic, but the strategy behind it is a little more tricky. There are two things to keep in mind when deciding on your product recommendation strategy: placement and type. In other words, you need to make sure you’re showing your customers the right recommendations at the right time. 

Let’s say you’re a retailer that sells bags. If you have a large assortment that covers everything from suitcases and duffel bags to briefcases and backpacks, product recommendations can help your visitors zoom in on the most relevant products that check off their back-to-school shopping lists. For new visitors who land on the homepage, for example, you can start them off on the right track by showing a product recommendation list of your best-selling backpacks. This reassures them that they’re in the right place and they can dive right in. For returning visitors, your homepage recommendations can get them back on track by showing them the items they looked at during their last visit.  

Not convinced that strategic product recommendations can have a real impact on your bottom line? Check out our case study on how our customer Sanicare Apotheke increased their conversion rates by 11.39%.

Be Specific: Show off your best deals

Back-to-school shoppers are ready to spend whatever they need to in order to start the school year off right, but rising costs mean that price is their top concern. In fact, 45% of surveyed consumers said they would be doing more price comparisons online and looking for sales this year than in past seasons. That means you need to make your best deals and lowest prices as visible as possible, giving your customers the impression that you are their best option. 

So how do product recommendations play into the price comparison game? For one thing, they can get you the most bang for your buck with Google Ads and searches. Visitors that land on one of your product pages from Google usually have a snap decision to make — is this webshop option better than the other ones I’m comparing it to? It’s a hard sell, but if you have a visible recommendation list to scroll through that shows off all your best deals, you’ve given them another reason to stay. That way, even if, for instance, the children’s jacket they’re looking at isn’t quite what they want, they can click on a similar one in a  recommendation list of low-priced jackets. That keeps them browsing in your shop instead of leaving to continue their search elsewhere. 

Want a concrete example of how an online shop that carries a large variety of products can benefit from a personalized recommendation engine? Read our mydays case study about how the experiences brand raised its conversation rates by 21% by implementing perfectly tailored gift recommendations.

Be Prepared: Test your strategy & collect learnings

Have you already implemented product recommendation campaigns for the back-to-school season? Then it’s time to test them out! As with any new feature or campaign, you should make sure that your recommendation placement and types are the right ones to get your customers engaged. You can use A/B tests or multi-variant tests to determine which version of your recommendations performs best with your customers. Once the winners have been implemented, you’re all set to ace the back-to-school shopping season.   

No matter how well your campaigns do in the next few months before school doors open, you’re bound to learn something useful if you do your homework. Make sure to collect those learnings and use them to do even better next year! 

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