With Labor Day behind us and pumpkin spice flavored everything hitting the shelves, it’s time to start thinking about fall and the start of school. Back to school shopping season is the second biggest retail event after the holiday season, and with sales results showing online shopping is more important than ever, brand marketers and retailers have to embrace new emerging strategies to ensure they engage students and parents in stores as well as on digital channels.

               In the 21st century, technology is everything. The internet provides an efficient, if not the most efficient, way to reach millions of consumers with one click or hashtag. Sbarro Pizza, for example, is doing a back to school promotional contest for free iPads. This contest allows customers to participate in physical Sbarro’s Pizza stores, and on facebook, twitter, or Instagram by adding #sbarroscholar to their posts. This approach is not only a great way for the company to get customers excited about their product, but it is also a great way for Sbarro to build their online presence. Another aspect of back to school marketing that brands are becoming more aware of is how they vary their voice based on different social media channels. While kids are obviously the main target when it comes to back to school shopping, parents are also key players so it is equally important for brands to market to social channels adults use as well. For example, Pinterest is a platform visited mostly by an older age group so the content should be geared towards adults, while on a platform like snapchat it is more beneficial to be kid-friendly. McDonald’s is a great example of how a brand can shift advertising based on age seen as they run kid-friendly content during Saturday morning cartoons and save the adult content for the evening news. One last approach that is great for back to school marketing is letting the consumers own the experience. Kids love to be creative right? So why not let them create their own campaigns. In 2016, Target used this approach, letting kids write, direct, produce, and star in the companies back to school commercials. Not only did this method help Target produce creative and unique content, but it received a ton of buzz on social media and in the news as well.

               Back to school shopping only happens once a year, but when it does brands should take advantage of the market. Whether it is reaching out to consumers of all ages, letting the customer get creative, or simply creating a brand hashtag, marketers need to use social media to get an edge on their competitors during this back to school season.