7 Advanced Merchandising Hacks to Rake In the Revenue This Back-to-School Season

With back-to-school revenue likely to reach a record-breaking $80+ billion — there is a lot of potential revenue to cash in on. 

But, with 22% of back-to-school shoppers already spending, you’re almost out of time. 

But only almost! 

Here are seven advanced merchandising hacks — powerful enough to help you stay ahead of the competition — that you still have time to implement. 

Let’s jump in. 

1. Drive Engagement with Interactive Shoppable Content

Shoppable content is great. 

Interactive accessible content is even better. 

Interactive shoppable content is an online shopping experience on steroids, encouraging customers to engage directly with your products through videos, quizzes, and augmented reality. Fitting seamlessly into a high-performing merchandising strategy, they increase engagement through real-time personalization, which boosts conversion rates and average order values. 

All while improving overall customer satisfaction. One good example of this in practice is shoppable videos. 

Online Merchandising Hack: Shoppable Videos

Embedding interactive videos is an innovative way for potential customers to learn more about the products you are selling — particularly if a user can directly make purchases from your content. 

black_friday-shoppable_video-gif

[Source: giosg]

This can be more effective when used for the right goals, such as new collections, how-to tutorials, or back-to-school essentials in action. Or in conjunction with the right online merchandising elements, such as your home, product, and testimonial pages. 

When creating your shoppable videos, you also want to: 

  1. Create an engaging narrative where the products are used, making it more relatable and enticing for the customers 
  2. Include clickable overlays on products shown in videos, allowing users to add items directly to their carts
  3. Track which products get the most clicks and conversions to refine your video content strategy 

An excellent example of this strategy is Society6’s #dormgoals shoppable lookbooks. 

2. Enhance Back-to-School Customer Support with AI Bots

Another way you can boost back-to-school sales this year — and increase ongoing retention — is by taking your customer service up a notch. 

In fact, given today’s competitive market, you should be aiming for 10 notches! 

The most effective way to do this is by implementing AI-driven customer support bots designed to support your online merchandising. These bots can handle common queries, recommend products, and even assist with the checkout process, improving the overall shopping experience.

Let’s discuss the top two ways that customer support AI can optimize your online merchandising this back-to-school season. 

1. Personalized Product Recommendations

AI-driven customer support bots can analyze customer behavior, past purchases, and browsing history. 

Implementing the right one now would enable you to offer 1:1 personalized product recommendations in real-time during the back-to-school shopping season. 

By using machine learning algorithms, these bots can suggest complementary products, upsell items, and provide tailored shopping experiences that increase the likelihood of purchase and boost average order values.

Let’s say you're an online retail store specializing in school supplies. 

To capitalize on the big jump of shoppers during the back-to-school shopping season, you implement an AI-driven customer support bot named "EduBot.”   

Using machine learning engines that work with product recommendation tools like Kimonix, the bot is designed to enhance the shopping experience by providing personalized product recommendations. 

The outcome? 

When a customer clicks on a set of colored pencils after a previous visit to your store, your EduBot could instantly suggest complementary products such as sketchbooks, erasers, and highlighters. It could even highlight back-to-school promotional bundles that include these items at a discount.

Pro Tip: Combine 1:1 Product Personalization with Advanced Merchandising

To build an advanced digital merchandising strategy, you must factor in a multitude of parameters, including:

  • AOVs (average order values)
  • Conversion rates
  • Sales
  • Product reviews(ratings and total amount)
  • Product demand and price competitiveness in the market
  • Margins and real margins after discounts
  • Sales quantities or revenue amount
  • Pageviews
  • Discount
  • Inventory value
  • Days to finish inventory
  • Days in store
  • Days since back in stock
  • Variants stock ratio
  • Cost of customer acquisition
  • Customer lifetime value
  • Cart abandonment
  • Page engagement (bounce rates)

It should also consider a potential customer’s specific needs — AKA, 1:1 personalization.

With the right tool, you can do this for all your online merchandising elements, including your product recommendations. Introducing Kimonix, a holistic, AI-powered merchandising solution that allows you to execute an ROI-driven merchandising strategy based on your real-time business needs.

Get your free 14-day trial here.

2. Proactive Customer Service and Issue Resolution

Another way you can use AI-powered customer service bots this back-to-school season is with issue resolution. This is not only to ensure you can resolve problems quickly but also to prevent them. 

AI-driven bots can proactively engage customers by identifying potential issues before they arise, especially during the hectic back-to-school season. 

This forward-thinking approach helps avoid frustration, improve the shopping experience, and boost sales. 

And how does this boost online merchandising? With: 

  • Improved customer experience 
  • Reduced cart abandonment 
  • Increased conversion rates 

By addressing a potential customer concern while they are actively engaging with your store pages, you help reduce friction and maintain the flow of the shopping process.

H&M’s Virtual Assistant does this perfectly. 

This AI-powered bot can help customers with various issues while preemptively engaging customers who show signs of struggling on the site. For example, it offers assistance if it sees a customer struggling with checkout to ensure a smooth transaction.

Tip: To implement this strategy for your store, you need tools such as Nuance, Zendesk, Intercom, or Drift.

3. Increase Back-to-School AOVs with Smart Product Bundling

Another way you can capitalize on back-to-school sales is with smart product bundling — enabling you to drive value to customers while increasing your AOVs. 

This merchandising approach leverages data analytics to identify frequently purchased products and bundle them at a discounted price, enticing customers to buy more in one go.

To implement this strategy: 

  • Use data analytics tools to examine past sales data and identify products that are frequently bought together. This might include items like notebooks and pens, laptops and accessories, or uniforms and backpacks.
  • Create strategic bundles based on value (price) and themes (such as Back-to-School Essentials or an Art Supplies Kit).

Then, you want to make AI-driven, real-time adjustments based on inventory levels or retail goals. 

Let’s look at a hypothetical example of this strategy in practice. 

Back-to-School Smart Bundling Example 

A home decor store creates a "Dorm Room Setup Bundle" specifically for college students with the goal of making the shopping process easier for students and parents — and increasing your AOVs. 

This bundle includes items like bedding sets, desk lamps, storage organizers, and decorative wall art, offered together at a 20% discount.

Additionally, by using AI, the store can adjust the bundle components based on inventory levels and customer preferences, ensuring that the bundles remain appealing and relevant throughout the back-to-school season.

This is a strategy that Dormify has actually built its whole brand around! They offer a "Dorm Room Setup Bundle" that includes bedding sets, desk lamps, storage organizers, and decorative wall art, all curated to meet the needs of college students moving into dorms.

Side Note: Their email signup that includes market research questions is also worth a mention and a copy! 

Using email signup for market research

[Source: Dormify]

4. Maximize Back-to-School Conversions with Advanced Retargeting

Retargeting is not new, but it is a vital element during the back-to-school period — especially for stores that aren’t obvious back-to-school product destinations. 

By using advanced retargeting strategies for your on and offsite merchandising, you can re-engage customers who have shown interest in your products and align them with their back-to-school shopping needs. 

For offsite merchandising, this can include: 

  • Using dynamic ads to display the exact products customers have browsed to make ads highly relevant and personalized 
  • Customizing retargeting messages based on customer behavior and preferences to increase engagement and conversion rates
  • Implementing a sequence of ads that gradually move customers toward a purchase, starting with reminders and escalating to incentives such as discounts or free shipping offers 

For instance, if you are an apparel brand, you can implement advanced retargeting by using dynamic ads to showcase the exact school uniforms, backpacks, and shoes that students viewed on their site. 

You can then use personalized messages to remind customers of these items, emphasizing limited-time discounts to create urgency. Or use sequential retargeting strategies that start with a simple reminder, followed by ads highlighting the products' benefits, and, finally, an offer of a discount code to incentivize the purchase.

J.Crew Factory is a good example of this strategy in practice. 

They effectively used advanced retargeting strategies to boost their back-to-school sales by creating dynamic retargeting ads that featured the exact products customers had viewed on their site, such as school uniforms and accessories. 

To create a sense of urgency, they included time-sensitive offers like "40% Off" with a visually striking countdown timer. 

However, this strategy can also be duplicated with your onstore merchandising for powerful results. 

Ideally, you want to create back-to-school category pages and then sort products based on retargeting and other metrics. 

back-to-school store collection example

[Source: J.Crew]

5. Create AR and VR Setups to Entice Shoppers 

Another way you can boost the success of your back-to-school merchandising this summer is with AR and VR technology and tools. 

An excellent example for this time of year is to create immersive dorm rooms, study rooms, or classroom setups where customers can explore and visualize how products would look and function in a natural classroom environment.  

This can be particularly effective for selling furniture, electronics, and educational tools. 

If you sell apparel or accessories, this is also a good time to promote your virtual try-ons. 

Let’s say you’re an eyewear store. For back-to-school, you can run marketing campaigns that push your virtual try-on feature on your product pages. 

Your campaigns could specifically target students, offering them the ability to see how different glass frames look on their faces before buying a new pair for the year. 

Clearly’s "Virtual Mirror" feature is an excellent example of how AR and VR technology can enhance the shopping experience. 

eCommerce successful online try on example

[Source: Clearly]

Shopify Apps for AR and VR

6. Optimize Your Back-to-School Stock Levels with AI-Driven Product Management

AI-product management is a must this back-to-school season. 

Why? 

AI-driven product management systems help you maintain optimal product sorting and display, ensuring that the right products are highlighted and easily accessible to customers when they need them.

Let’s say you are an apparel store that uses Kimonix’s AI-driven product management to optimize its back-to-school inventory. 

The system sorts your products based on the analyzed sales data you put in — from previous years, current market trends, and online search patterns that forecast which items will be in high demand. 

This ensures that popular back-to-school items like uniforms, backpacks, and shoes are prioritized on collections of these items on your online store, sorting them to appear first in relevant searches, increasing visibility and sales. 

It also factors in important retail KPIs, such as adjusting to changing stock levels in real-time. 

This is a strategy that JD Sports implemented, resulting in a whopping 142% improvement in their collections conversion rates. 

How? 

Using Kimonix to implement a carefully planned A/B testing strategy on a critical product line, their team ran two different sorting approaches:

  1. The first involved standard eCommerce merchandising practices as a control, maintaining the existing sorting to establish a baseline conversion rate. 
  2. The second used Kimonix's multi-segment collection strategy. This method organized the collection to display various product categories in each row, such as T-shirts, pants, shorts, and sweatshirts. Each segment applied a unique sorting strategy that considered factors like sales data, conversion rates, and stock levels.

You can read more about how they did it, here

7. Win Over Customers with Gamified Shopping Experiences

Lastly, let’s talk about back-to-school gamification. 

By incorporating gamification elements into your merchandising, you can transform the shopping experience, ultimately making it more interactive and enjoyable. This is especially important during the back-to-school season when parents and students are actively seeking supplies and apparel.

Here’s how incorporating gamification elements can boost back-to-school sales and overall brand retention:

  1. Increased engagement. Games and challenges make the shopping experience more interactive, keeping customers on your site longer and increasing the likelihood of purchases.
  2. Higher conversion rates. Offering rewards and discounts through gamification can incentivize purchases, leading to higher conversion rates. This is especially important during the back-to-school shopping season, as shoppers are actively waiting for discounts and promotions. 
  3. Enhanced customer loyalty. Loyalty programs and reward systems encourage repeat business, helping to build a loyal customer base.
  4. More positive brand perception. A fun and engaging shopping experience can enhance your brand's image, making customers more likely to return.
  5. Increased social sharing. Gamification elements, such as challenges and rewards, can encourage customers to share their experiences on social media, increasing your brand’s visibility and attracting new customers.

Here are two advanced gamification strategies you can test to boost back-to-school shopping sales this season. 

1. Interactive Back-to-School Quests

Create a themed quest where students can navigate through a virtual school environment, completing tasks and challenges to earn rewards. 

To implement this, you design a virtual map of a school with various "classrooms" representing different product categories (e.g., supplies, clothing, electronics). 

Then, customers can visit each room and complete interactive tasks such as trivia questions or mini-games related to the products to win prizes and rewards. 

Upon completing specific milestones, customers receive exclusive discounts, bonus points, or free items.

An example of this (on a bigger scale) is the Gulf Union Foods Co. 2023 Back-to-School campaign. 

They partnered with a creative technology studio and AIPIA member Appetite Creative to create a fun and interactive connected packaging experience for its Original juice brand.

 

back to school gamification example

2. Interactive Scavenger Hunts

Another way to add gamification to your store is by creating an interactive back-to-school scavenger hunt. 

To implement this strategy, you integrate virtual items (such as back-to-school-related icons or special graphics) throughout your online store, which customers can find while browsing different product pages. 

You also need to get developer help for your store, or use a Shopify app such as Discount Hunt.

Once implemented, each found item can then reveal a special deal, discount code, or a piece of a larger reward.

Wrap Up 

There you have it: seven advanced strategies to take your merchandising to a new, competitive level this summer. 

By leveraging predictive analytics, dynamic pricing, geo-targeted campaigns, augmented reality, AI-driven product management, interactive shoppable content, AI bots, smart product bundling, advanced retargeting, and more, you not only boost sales but build long-term retention. 

Retention that drives long-term profits. 

Still have merchandising questions? Reach out to us here.

Until next time… happy selling!

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