In early September, children and university students throughout the UK will return to school. For many students, they will head into the classroom for the first time since the government closed schools in late March.

In 2020, back to school shopping is bound to look different. 75% of UK parents have experienced some form of financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 and will be looking to prioritise back to school spend on items they deem essential.

To assist retailers in understanding how back to school shoppers will purchase in 2020, Rakuten Advertising surveyed 758 UK consumers with primary, high school and university-aged children, along with university students who buy their own items.

Key findings from this study include:

Rakuten Advertising 2020 Back to School Infographic

With these findings in mind, below are some strategies for brands to consider when planning back to school campaigns:

  • Expand your back to school product range: This year, shopping lists are expanding beyond the usual books, backpacks and laptops to include unconventional back to school items. The data reveals that hand sanitiser, face masks and cleaning supplies will be prioritised over traditional items. Brands should remain flexible and open to pivoting on product lead campaigns based on the items they see are performing best with consumers. Furthermore, for brands that sell cleanliness products such as mask or hand sanitiser they should promote the sale of these items within their back to school campaigns.
  • Discounts and offers will be key: 75% of parents and 83% of university students have experienced some form of financial hardship this year. As they look to purchase for back to school, the availability of discounts and offers will be essential to driving purchases. Leveraging affiliate partners that promote discounts such as deal and offer sites, or cashback and rewards publisher that provide varying offers will place brands in a good position with consumers. Additionally, brands can optimise partnerships with unique student publishers that target and reach university students. Publishers like Student Beans and UNiDays have unique technology that verifies students based on the University or college they attend and can deliver bespoke students discounts and offers to drive engage shoppers to a brands website.
  • Employ retargeting strategies: The majority of back to school shopping in the UK will take place during August giving brands the opportunity to reach shoppers throughout the month. During this time people will be looking to source the best offer and ‘shopping around’. Retargeting tactics such as thank-you campaigns or those that focus on basket abandoners employ personalisation strategies to drive consumers back to site and encourage purchases. Brands who build their retargeting pool early will be able to leverage these strategies throughout the month.

If you’d like to find out more, including how Rakuten Advertising can help your brand during peak shopping periods, visit to speak to one of our experts!