Snagging Back-to-College Online Shoppers

Moving off to college can be a daunting time for students and parents alike. Whether an incoming freshman is moving into the dorms or his or her first apartment, the back-to-college shopping list can be quite lengthy—clothes and shoes, electronics, school supplies, bedding and furniture, personal care items, food and more.

The National Retail Federation (NRF), which recently came out with its annual back-to-school survey, expects back-to-college spending to reach an all-time high with $54.1 billion this year, and with online winning out over discount and department stores as the top shopping destination, your e-commerce business is in a prime spot to deliver big.

You do not need to run an online store that caters solely to the college crowd or that covers all their back-to-college essentials to take advantage of this shopping season. If you sell something of value to the college-aged student, then it is time you thought about how to get it front-and-center for those parents and students getting ready to tackle back-to-college shopping.

Here are four ideas your e-commerce business can use to attract back-to-college shoppers:

#1: Use Social Media

Using social media is one of the more obvious ways to market to back-to-college shoppers, but maybe not in the way you would think. According to RetailMeNot, retailers are targeting new social media channels this year: 74 percent are looking at Facebook Live, 60 percent at Instagram, and 55 percent at Snapchat. These are all platforms that are heavy on visuals.

Along those same lines, don’t forget to motivate shoppers to engage with you after they have made their purchases. Consider creating a hashtag that customers can use when showing off their new back-to-college buys on Instagram or other social media channels. This provides an easy way to aggregate user-generated content to inspire other back-to-college shoppers to buy something.

#2: Make Shipping Easy

According to the NRF, 88.7 percent of this year’s back-to-college shoppers plan to take advantage of free shipping. However, just because their frugal tendencies win out over convenience does not mean they won’t appreciate other shipping options as well—44.3 percent of back-to-college shoppers plan to buy online and pick up in store, according to the NRF. Here’s how Pottery Barn’s Pbdorm promotes this option:

#3: Offer Special Deals

Back-to-college shoppers tend to shop at various intervals. According to the NRF, this is when back-to-college shoppers plan to get started this year:

  • 31.9 percent at least 2 months before school starts
  • 34.6 percent 3 weeks to 1 month before school starts
  • 20.7 percent 1-2 weeks before school starts
  • 7 percent the week school starts
  • 5.8 percent after school starts

Think of these different types of shoppers and what they’ll need when they actually start shopping and roll out deals accordingly.

Also consider the following:

  • Offer all-encompassing storewide discounts to motivate shoppers to buy as much as they want as opposed to just buying sales items.
  • Create subscriptions specifically for college students’ needs like Target does. This is a great way to generate recurring revenue.

#4: Be Smart About Mobile

Don’t forget about the mobile experience. College students and their parents will likely rely heavily on their mobile devices as they shop for school, so your site (or app) needs to be ready for that.

Bed, Bath & Beyond is an all-around great example of what to do for back-to-college shopping, but it is what they have done lately with the mobile experience that truly shines. While a lot retailers offer back-to-college shopping checklists, their mobile-friendly Campus Checklist is interactive – tap “Bed Pillows” and you’re redirected to a pillows category page where you can view products and place them in your shopping cart:

While back-to-school shopping is a great opportunity for retailers everywhere, it is the back-to-college crowd that spell the biggest opportunity for e-commerce this year.

About Endicia
Endicia is a leading provider of internet-based postage services that make it easier and more affordable to ship parcels through the U.S. Postal Service®. We know that shipping can be complex and our goal is to simplify your shipping operations so you can focus on doing what you do best. Visit us at  to learn more.

Contact Us

323 N. Mathilda Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94085-4207



  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.