We’re currently at the height of the back-to-school season, and in the world of retail that means information on consumer trends and advice on how to capture back-to-school shoppers are everywhere.
But what about B2B retailers?
Back-to-school proves an important time of the year B2B retailers too, particularly those in the office supplies space, and much of the advice out there about how to ace the back-to-school season simply doesn’t ring true if you’re on the B2B side of things.
4 Back-to-School Tips for B2B Retailers
Having spent several years running an email marketing program in the B2B retail space, I know firsthand how frustrating the lack of back-to-school advice for B2B retailers can be. Today I’d like to change that by sharing several best practices I picked up over the years.
1) Get to Know Your Customers’ Shopping Patterns
First and foremost, you need to understand your customers’ shopping patterns. On the consumer side of things, back-to-school shopping is fairly cut-and-dry: Parents spend July and August getting their kids ready for the start of the new school year.
But on the business side of things, when exactly back-to-school shopping occurs isn’t always as clear. In fact, many educational institutions have two back-to-school shopping seasons: One at the end of the school year when they use leftover budget to buy supplies for the upcoming school year and another in December when they restock for the second semester.
It’s also important to take your customers’ locations into account, as schools located in the southeastern and southwestern US typically end in May and start in August whereas schools located in the northeast don’t usually end until June and don’t return until September.
Given these nuances, it’s important to dive into your data to identify your customers’ shopping patterns so that you can develop a clear timeline of when your true back-to-school season occurs.
2) Go Beyond Discounts When Incentivizing Customers to Shop
Another way that B2B differs from B2C is that business customers aren’t shopping with their own money — and that’s a big deal. Furthermore, in many cases, businesses have a set contract to spend a certain amount at your store each year. Together, these facts mean that most business customers aren’t price conscious (or, at the very least, they are less so than consumers).
As a result, using discounts to incentivize customers to shop simply doesn’t have the same impact in the B2B world as it does in the B2C world. So instead of using discounts, you need try a different approach. For instance, you might:
- Highlight social responsibility: Social responsibility has become critical for businesses (not surprisingly given Nielsen’s finding that nearly 60% of millennials will pay more for products from a company known for its commitment to social value), so why not use this to incentivize your customers to shop with you? You can do so by offering to donate a percentage of profit to either the charity of their business’ choice or the charity that your business supports. Either way, it’s a win for both your brand and theirs.
- Share a personal discount: If your organization has a B2C side as well as a B2B side, you can try incentivizing your business customers to shop by offering people who make a business purchase a coupon for their personal use.
3) Think About Non-Traditional “Businesses”
During the back-to-school season, some non-traditional customers might come out of the woodwork. Case in point: Teachers. Many teachers purchase supplies for their classroom with their own money, so while they’re purchasing in bulk like a business might, they are more price conscious like consumers.
In cases like these, you might offer special discounts for unique customer segments. For example, you can ask teachers buying products in bulk for their classrooms to register on your site (using a .edu email address so you can verify their status as a teacher) to unlock special promotions targeted specifically for them.
4) Make It Easy for Your Customers to Get What They Need
This last one is straight from the B2C playbook, but it holds true for B2B too: The easier you can make it for your customers to find what they need, the more likely they are to buy from you as opposed to your competition.
With that in mind, try creating a “back-to-school center” on your site that provides a one stop shop for all things back-to-school. You can then add banners to all of your relevant emails that promote this landing page and take shoppers directly there.
Taking Back the Back-to-School Season for B2B Retailers
Ready for even more insight on how B2B retailers are shaking up their marketing efforts? Check out how Discount School Supply has introduced new capabilities to easily match customers with the products they need, introduce more efficient workflows and unearth actionable insights from customer data.