6 Ways Small Businesses Can Make the Most of Back to School

It’s almost time for back-to-school shopping—the second largest season for retailers, followed only by the winter holidays. According to our 2014 back-to-school study, retailers raked in $74.9 billion in back-to-school sales in 2013.

Two years later, the revenue opportunity is even greater. A 2015 study by the Rubicon Project surveyed 1,000 parents nationwide about their spending plans. The prediction? That 56 percent of parents will spend more money this year than last year on back-to-school shopping for their kids.

As a small business competing with massive retailers, getting and keeping shoppers’ attention during this season can be a daunting task, but it can be done. Here are six ways to give your small business an edge.

1. Make Sure You’re Accepting the Latest Payment Types

In order to stay competitive, it’s essential that your business doesn’t fall behind on payment trends. Staying up-to-date on the latest technologies revolutionizing the point of sale can not only help you meet the demands of your customers, but also put your company on the cutting edge. 

This year, the payments technologies to pay attention to are NFC-based mobile payments and EMV chip card transactions. You can start accepting both by upgrading to a future-proof payment terminal that accepts these technologies, and be well-prepared when the back-to-school crowds hit the stores.

2. Take Advantage of Mobile Coupons

If you’re looking to attract new customers during the back-to-school season, mobile coupons are an effective way to convince shoppers to give you a shot. Coupons could also be the deciding factor between two retailers if a shopper is comparing prices. If you offer them, your business could increase online and in-store traffic.

Mobile coupons can also boost loyalty by enticing current customers to keep shopping with you and return for future purchases. Our 2014 back to school survey results showed that 91 percent of shoppers would head to another store if that retailer offered a coupon—proof that serving up great deals is a strong strategy at back-to-school and all the time.

3. Jumpstart Your Loyalty Program

Speaking of loyalty, this back-to-school season, make sure your program is ready to go. In our 2014 study, we found that only 34 percent of retailers were running loyalty programs for back to school, meaning 66 percent missed out on the opportunity to encourage repeat business.

Here’s another reason to take loyalty seriously this time of year: by launching a program during the back-to-school shopping rush, small businesses have a test-run for the big show: holiday season shopping.

4. Don’t Forget About Generation Z

We recently discussed the importance of attending to a new generation of shoppers. Generation Z refers to anyone born between the mid-90s and today. As a small business, keying into this cohort’s mindset could be your secret to success. And if you’re going to win with Gen Z, you have to be on all screens.

An omnichannel retail strategy is essential to attracting this younger demographic. They’re plugged into an array of devices, and in order to capture their attention, businesses need to factor in those tablets, mobile devices, computers and TVs. This may seem like a tall order, but to be relevant in the retail world, each screen must be accounted for.

5. Get Personal

As an owner or employee at a small business, you might be asking yourself: How can I compete with the big stores? The Wal-Marts and Targets of the world may seem to be omnipotent and omnipresent, but as a small business, you have an opportunity to deliver personal retail experiences to customers. 

According to the Boston Business Journal, online personalization is a reasonable, actionable strategy for small businesses. In the past, the execution could be daunting, but there are now digital solutions that simplify the process. According to a 2013 study conducted by Monetate, 94 percent of companies agree that personalization “is critical to current and future success.” It’s almost a no-brainer: Accessible implementation tools and significant business incentives make personalizing your customers’ retail experiences a smart move this back-to-school season.

Get more details on personalization in our blog post here.

6. Understand Today’s Product Discovery Process

A large proportion of today’s shoppers are doing their homework before they head to the stores, and as a result, the product discovery process has evolved to adapt to the technologies that shoppers are using and expecting. Showrooming can give way to webrooming and vice versa. It’s complicated!


More than ever, technology is revolutionizing the retail space today, from beacons to mobile devices to in-store tablets. To stay up-to-date, small businesses need to create an integrated strategy that incorporates the above payment and retail tools. To ace this back-to-school season, businesses need to do their homework and decide which tools, technologies and approaches are right for their customers.