It’s not too late for retailers to implement their back-to-school plans: only 45% of families complete their shopping by early August, and 23% haven’t started at all, according to Bazaarvoice. This long season is expected to result in $82.8 billion being spent on K-12 and college students, a survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights and Analytics found.

The average family will spend $730 this year, according to a survey by Brand Keys. To take advantage of this opportunity, retailers should keep several factors in mind:

  • Prime Day is now part of back-to-school: The e-Commerce holiday has emerged as a major back-to-school event for the entire industry;
  • Omnichannel is important: While many shoppers still prefer shopping in-store, e-Commerce can’t be neglected;
  • Social media is a valuable tool: Customers are using social media both for research and to make purchases;
  • Make promotions count: The back-to-school season is long, and retailers should be wary of how and when they run discounts; and
  • Don’t fear experimentation: Many retailers are using events and partnerships to stand out during this important season.

Prime Day Is Important Industry-Wide

As back-to-school has stretched to encompass early July, Prime Day is becoming the season’s Cyber Monday. While the event benefits Amazon most, more and more retailers are launching their own e-Commerce promotions to coincide with the holiday, and many are including back-to-school products in the mix.

“Prime Day has really done two things, not just for Amazon, but for all retailers,” said Marissa Tarleton, CMO of RetailMeNot in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “It’s shifted the back-to-school season up, and it’s made it more of a general e-Commerce holiday.”

The level of activity on Prime Day can’t be ignored: 66% of parents planned to make a purchase during the event, and 91% planned to do some some back-to-school browsing. The average family spent $70 on back-to-school supplies on Prime Day alone.

Even the days around the holiday are important: promotions often start before Prime Day proper and run through the entire week, according to Tarleton. The result is a burst of e-Commerce activity that retailers can use to drive online sales.

In-Store Dominates, But E-Commerce Is Vital

Even with the influence of Prime Day, back-to-school remains a season dominated by brick-and-mortar: 96% of families plan to shop in a store at least once, while 72% will shop online at least once during the season, according to RetailMeNot. The NRF and Prosper identified the top destinations where customers shop for supplies:

  • Department stores (57% for K-12, 40% for college);
  • Discount stores (52% for K-12, 35% for college); and
  • Office supply stores (35% for K-12, 31% for college).

The top three product categories for brick-and-mortar purchases are clothing, backpacks and school supplies, according to RetailMeNot. However, consumers are most likely to buy electronics online, a category…