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How Influencers are Redefining Back-to-School Shopping

For many companies’ bottom lines, back-to-school shopping is a huge deal. After the holidays, the back-to-school shopping season is the largest shopping event of the year. In 2021, it accounted for a whopping $37.1 billion in total spend, eclipsing previous pre-pandemic records.

Another big trend in 2021 was the prevalence of influencer marketing. Back-to-school content blew up on social media, with parents and students turning to influencers for inspiration on everything from DIY lunches to school fashion trends. Quoth a random YouTube commenter, “I’m literally binging school videos.”

As demand for back-to-school content increases, having an influencer marketing strategy is more important than ever. With the 2022 shopping season around the corner, now is the perfect time to catch up on the latest happenings. Today we’ll be looking at some of the biggest content trends on platforms like TikTok and YouTube, and explore how brands can use them to engage with back-to-school shoppers.

TikTok moms are trending

If you’re a mom on TikTok, you’ve probably seen videos of moms preparing food for their kids and marveled at them. The TikTok creator Jessica Woo, for instance, owner of the account sulheejessica (5.7M), arranges aesthetically-pleasing meals for her kids in bento boxes, or Japanese lunch containers. 

Woo’s adorable kid-meals are part of a broader trend that involves packed lunches and cute catering ideas. Kindred content is often tagged with labels like #lunchbox (5B), #schoollunch (2.4B), and #bento (1.7B). And while not all this content is relevant to back-to-school marketing (doggie nutritionists, for instance, post similar-looking content), a lot of it is. 

Working with a mom influencer on TikTok is an excellent way to appeal to moms gearing up for back-to-school. Returning to Woo, she has collabed with a slew of mom-approved brands, including Nutella, Whole Foods, Canon, the American Girl children’s book series, and MilkPEP (the dairy farmer group behind the Got Milk? and Gonna Need Milk campaigns).

Elsewhere on the platform, moms stow away gummy bears and watermelon cubes in airtight containers for after-school treats. An offshoot of the #restock (9.7B) trend, this content provides the same visceral thrill of watching Marie Kondo tidy up a walk-in closet. Mini-fridges for the kids are magically filled with yummy food items, and art supplies get organized into storage bins.

The #bigfamily (3.1B) trend also comes into play. True to their name, these videos feature families with an extreme number of kids. Things that should be simple, like making breakfast for the clan before school, become Herculean tasks. Here we see a #backtoschool #bigfamily video sponsored by the dish soap brand Dawn.  

Back-to-school supply hauls

Another type of content on the rise is back-to-school shopping hauls — a vertical where influencers reveal their favorite items for the coming school year. 

On YouTube, these typically take on a vlog-style format. In five to fifteen-minute videos, teen influencers casually unpack brightly-colored classroom implements: folders, binders, index cards, markers, pens, No. 2 pencils. The content slips in alongside other content on their channels, like glow ups and outfit ideas, often with affiliate links to buy. 

On TikTok, you’ll see more on-location shopping, with student-parent tag-teams filling buggies with supplies as they raid the shelves at the local Target or Office Depot. Naturally, retailers who sell school supplies participate, as do school supply brands like Crayola. But the trend also ropes in teen outfitters, productivity tools, and shopping apps

Expect to see more livestream shopping events in this category going forward as platforms roll out more shoppable stream features. 

Fall fashion

As you may know, TikTok is a major source for fashion trends — an active scene where high schoolers scope out fresh styles to impress their peers. Last year, back-to-school outfitters took center stage. Brands including Vans, Wal-Mart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and American Eagle partnered with teenage TikTok influencers as part of their back-to-school campaigns.

On the kid-clothing front, both TikTok and Instagram are ideal for marketing to parents who make the outfit decisions. The platforms are home to a wealth of wholesome family influencers who are fond of decking out their kids in adorable kids-wear. 

The Stauffer/Anderson family (2.2M TikTok, 3.3M Instagram), for instance, has partnered with clothiers like Athleta and Odd Sox; while the LaBrant Family (29.2M TikTok, 6.9M Instagram) has created fashion content for Walmart, Shein, and Target. Brands would be sage to orchestrate back-to-school pushes around family influencer content.

Tech trends

Tech and gadget brands should keep an eye on the “what’s in my backpack” trend. This type of content quite often involves tech items large and small being pulled out, one by one, from a bulky backpack, the idea being to give college students advice on the gear they should carry around campus. 

The trend looks a bit different depending on the platform. On YouTube, the content is an evolution of the standard tech review or gadget roundup. On TikTok, it’s closely affiliated to the #whatsinmybag (679.7+M) hashtag, in which users show the world the contents of their purses, backpacks, and totes. Items like water bottles, binders, and hairclips are included in the mix. 

Get Ready For Back-To-School Season

Don’t tell the kids, but the school year will be here before you know it. Last year, the school shopping season started super early, with one in four households making purchases in June. It’s a good idea to chart out your influencer marketing strategy soon. 

The Social Standard is a full-service influencer marketing agency driven by setting the standard for the industry and then reaching even higher. Our team is obsessed with finding the right influencers for our partners. But we are way more than just matchmakers. We are strategists that develop effective campaigns to delight, inspire, entertain and hit business goals. From concept to seamless execution, we work with clients such as Adobe, FiatChrysler, L’Oreal, Motorola, and others, positioning them as pioneers in innovative influencer marketing and helping talent thrive in the creator economy. Want to learn more about our agency’s work? Shoot us an email at partner@sostandard.com. We’d love to collaborate!

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