Back-to-school sales have long been established in brick-and-mortar stores, and they’ve bled over into ecommerce. Consumers expect to see exciting deals on Amazon, just like they do when they walk through a physical store.
Of course, preparing for seasonal events on Amazon is a little different than preparing for the same event at brick-and-mortars. To help you prepare for the Back-to-School season on Amazon, we’ve compiled a list of best practices.
Amazon Categories Supported by Back-to-School Sales
Let’s start with which product categories benefit the most from this period.
The end of summer brings much with it for Amazon sellers, including Back to School sales, Labor Day weekend trips, and the first whispers of the holiday season. During this period, we see several product categories enjoy a sales boost driven by the seasons of life.
Back to school shopping often includes new clothes. Children have outgrown their old clothes, literally and figuratively, by the time the next school year rolls around.
AKA school supplies. Kids need new binders, paper, pens and pencils. And when the kids restock, parents and teachers do too.
Amazon Business also provides opportunities here, as schools may also place bulk orders for supplies. In Amazon’s 2021 B2B conference, re:Shape, they even included a university’s use of Amazon Business as a case study.
Arts & Crafts
Who doesn’t love an old fashion school project? Well, like them or not, they’re quite common, and so parents and teachers alike are buying students all sorts of art supplies.
Sports & Outdoors
By August and September, Sports & Outdoors sales are past their peak, which typically hits in June and July. However, with summer coming to a close and a three-day weekend afforded by Labor Day, some shoppers make a last hurrah, buying items for one more summer adventure before transitioning to fall and winter sports.
Toys & Games
As Sports & Outdoors exits the spotlight, Toys & Games is preparing to enter. Truthfully, Toys & Games sales don’t start to soar until November, but the end of summer marks the period when brands should be finalizing marketing plans for the holidays.
Amazon Inventory Management & Fulfillment for Back-to-School
Of course, to capture seasonal sales on Amazon, you must have inventory. Surprisingly, that has become a point of uncertainty as Amazon continues to impose stricter inventory quantity limits for FBA. Shoppers expect brands to be on Amazon, so you need to be there to meet that expectation, with or without FBA.
To that end, here are a few tactics we’re recommending to our partners.
Establish Dropship as a Backup Plan
Dropship proved itself to be invaluable in 2020 as Amazon’s fulfillment network struggled to handle the sudden surge in customer orders and seller shipments. When Amazon blocked entire product categories from shipping inventory into FBA, brands that could dropship were able to continue fulfilling orders.
In a three-month period, one of our partners sold an additional 2,134 units through dropship on top of their FBA orders! Without dropship, they would have simply lost those sales because their FBA inventory cap was too low.
As FBA volatility continues, Kaspien is encouraging all our partners to establish dropship capabilities. By setting up Amazon dropshipping, our partners are able to continue satisfying their customers, regardless of any FBA curveballs.
Leverage Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP)
While dropshipping is an invaluable safety net, it doesn’t automatically guarantee the same shipping speed as FBA. This can be a significant issue for shoppers who procrastinate and find themselves scrambling to get their school and office supplies in time.
Fulfilling orders through FBA negates this issue, but it’s currently volatile. On the dropshipping side, brands can explore Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP). SFP is an Amazon program where the brand fulfills the order while providing a Prime-equivalent experience. Products fulfilled through SFP feature the Prime badge on the search results page and product listing.
Amazon verifies every SFP seller to ensure quality control. In February 2021, Amazon withdrew SFP credentials from some sellers after an internal audit found that many SFP sellers were not consistently meeting the requirements (largely due to being closed on weekends).
Given the strict criteria and indefinitely closed application process, getting SFP authorized is almost impossible. To gain SFP capabilities, you’ll need to work with a third-party seller or third-party logistics provider who is already authorized.
Enroll in Amazon Small & Light
Moving away from FBA issues and dropshipping, there’s another Amazon program that deserves our attention: Small & Light.
School supplies, arts and crafts, and apparel can be quite light and inexpensive. To make products like this still viable to sell on its marketplace, Amazon created the Small & Light program, which reduces fulfillment fees for products that are sold via FBA, priced under $7, and sell at least 25 units per month.
You can learn about this and other cost-saving programs in our post, “How to Minimize Amazon Seller Fees.”
Organic Marketing Tactics for Back-to-School
Moving on, let’s delve into Amazon marketing tips and tricks you can use to increase traffic and conversions. We’ll start with free marketing tools and practices.
Review Listing Content
Periodic content audits are always a good idea, and doubly so for seasonal products. Conduct keyword research again to see what new keywords should be incorporated into the frontend and backend of your listing, and which terms might be worth cutting.
Read customer reviews to see if there is a common question or misunderstanding about the product. If so, update the copy and/or add an image or video to provide clarity.
Finally, review your images. Are they still up-to-snuff and relevant, or have they become outdated?
Use Brand Store Versions
Amazon added a feature for Brand Stores that allows you to create multiple versions of a given page. This tool can be used to create holiday or event themed pages, which you can schedule to run during a specific date range before automatically reverting to the default page version.
If applicable to your product catalog, create a Back-to-School version of your Brand Store’s home page. You can also create a dedicated Back-to-School page and include it in your Brand Store nav bar if you have a large enough catalog to warrant it. And of course, this practice works great for any holiday that’s relevant to your offerings.
Create Variation Listings
Any time that you offer multiple sizes, quantities, colors, or patterns of a product, it’s worth checking if you can create a variation listing. Variation listings provide an intuitive and convenient shopping experience for your customers, helping them identify the right version of your product for their needs and eliminating the guess work. Variation listings are a great option for many product types, but are especially useful for office supplies, apparel, and arts & crafts.
Use A+ Content Comparison Modules
If you are unable to create variation listings, another way you can showcase more of your product line is through the comparison module for A+ Content. There are no limitations for which types of products you showcase in this section, so the products can be complementary, substitutes, or completely separate from the product of the given listing (Although we do recommend showing substitutions or complementary products since it’s a nice shopping experience).
For example, if the listing is for a backpack, the comparison module could show other school supplies. If the listing is for a bike, the comparison module could show helmets and bike lights.
Amazon Advertising for Back-to-School
Review Last Year’s Data
Just as with organic marketing, your paid marketing efforts should start with a review of what worked and what didn’t in the past.
If products performed worst than expected, review the metrics. If click-through-rate (CTR) is high but conversion rate is low, it indicates that shoppers were interested in the ad, but weren’t persuaded by the listing content. In that case, you may need to update the listing images, text, and A+ Content.
If the number of clicks are low but conversions are high, you may need to increase your ad budget.
If all metrics performed well, double down this year and allocate an aggressive marketing budget for those products’ ad campaigns.
Create and Launch Ads Early
Amazon ads take time to build relevancy, which is why we almost never recommend turning off your Amazon ads, even during slower seasons. Reducing an ad budget as demand and competition wanes is one thing, but turning off your ads for months at a time means you’re sliding back down a hill that you’ll have to climb again when the sales season returns.
Generally, we recommend launching ads or increasing ad budget about one month prior to your sales season, giving you time to build momentum and refine search term optimization so you can hit the ground running.
Of the four main Amazon ad types, we recommend focusing on Sponsored Product Ads, which have the highest conversion rate of any Amazon ad type. These are the best known ads on Amazon, appearing alongside organic results on the search results page.
Sponsored Brand Ads and Sponsored Brand Videos are great options for products with high sales velocity (the single placement per page means these ad types are highly competitive, so the odds of winning the placement for a product with low sales velocity isn’t great).
Last but not least, Sponsored Display Ads appear on related product listings, including yours and competitors’. While the concept of capturing sales from competitors at the last minute sounds exciting, many shoppers have already made a decision by that point. Instead, Sponsored Display Ads are best used to target complementary and substitute products, similar to the comparison module for A+ Content.
Use Amazon Deals if You Have Strong Performers
Shoppers are looking for back-to-school deals, right? Well, Amazon happens to allow sellers to run three types of deals: Deal of the Day, Lightning Deals, and 7-day Deals. Each of these are short-term promotions that can be used to accelerate sales velocity. Deals can be especially effective during major holiday events, Prime Day, and your peak seasons.
Of course, there’s a “but.” While deals can deliver fantastic results, you should know that Amazon will determine the deal price, the minimum inventory order quantity, the duration of the deal, and deal fees. As such, Amazon deals tend to work best for products with a strong performance record.
Pair Ads with Amazon Coupons
If you don’t qualify to run an Amazon, you can still achieve the effect of a deal through Amazon coupons. coupons also indirectly support product rank improvement. Like any type of paid marketing on Amazon, higher sales indicate to Amazon’s algorithm that shoppers like the product. Since Amazon is a customer-centric platform, the algorithm will rank the product better. This increases the product’s visibility and organic sales, creating a cyclical effect. According to Amazon, coupons increase sales by 12% on average!
If you run an Amazon ad for a product that also has a coupon, the coupon tag will appear in the ad. This has a one-two punch effect: the ad means more shoppers will see the product, and the coupon incentivizes shoppers to click into the ad and convert.
Is Amazon DSP Right for Back-to-School?
Last but not least, there is Amazon Demand Side Platform, better known as DSP. Amazon DSP allows brands to use Amazon’s first-party data to target shoppers with ads on Amazon.com, Amazon devices and applications such as Fire TV or tablet, Amazon-owned sites like IMDB.com, or affiliate websites and apps in Amazon’s network.
These ads extend your reach, re-engage shoppers, and support new customer acquisition. In 2020, we ran a two-month DSP campaign for Strider, a leading kids’ toy company known for their revolutionary bikes. That campaign generated over $250,000 in sales, 5.9 million impressions, reached nearly 200,000 unique shoppers, and boasted a 4.9 return on ad spend (ROAS). 84% of orders also came from shoppers who had not previously purchased Strider products on Amazon.
Clearly, DSP offers huge potential. It also has a high cost, with Amazon requiring a minimum budget of $35,000. As such, you’ll need to consider which season you want to make that investment. If back-to-school sales are not your peak sales season and you have a limited budget, you should reserve DSP for your peak season.
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