I see so many Amazon sellers complaining every year about the huge summer slowdown. It seems sales take quite a dive in lots of different categories. However, my bud Jessica Larrew of The Selling Family knows exactly how to perk up profits in the dog days of summer … with a sales-generating back-to-school strategy.
She has implemented this same game plan year after year with tremendous results, so I asked her to take some time and answer a few questions to point sellers in the right direction. As usual, she shared some awesome tips and techniques.
KARON: Thanks, Jess, for lending us your wisdom. With summer being such a slow shopping season, why is it important for Amazon sellers to focus on back-to-school (BTS) products? Is BTS that big a deal?
JESSICA: Yes! BTS is a very big deal for Amazon sellers. In fact, only the fourth quarter is bigger!
Consumers in the United States spend more than $83 BILLION a year on supplies for kindergarten through college-aged students. According to the National Retail Association, the average family spends $688 on K-12 students.
This means that, as Amazon sellers, we need to start preparing now to meet that demand. Retail stores have already started setting up their Back to School displays, and now is the time to find the products that will become harder to get as the season goes on.
In our Back-to-School Profits guide, we lay out specifics on the timeline of this “season.”
KARON: When is the best time to set a BTS “season” selling strategy into motion? How should the timing work?
JESSICA: Right now is the time to start!
We recommend starting to research trends and products now, as well as looking for ideas on Amazon and places like Pinterest. As I mentioned, stores are already setting up their displays, so there are already plenty of products to purchase and send in to Amazon.
In July, stores will start having some great sales, and you’ll also notice that some items are selling for well above retail. This means you don’t necessarily have to search the clearance aisle to find a product that’s profitable.
By the end of the month and then in early August, many popular products will already be hard to find in stores. This is why it’s important to stock up now!
KARON: How in the world do you figure out what to buy? Every school district has different requirements. Plus, kids don’t want the same things. How do you know what colors or products or cartoon characters will be popular?
JESSICA: We are big proponents of doing most research at home before heading to the stores to make purchases. This includes doing your homework on trends.
In mid to late June, really start paying extra attention to the trending toys on Amazon and in the big box stores, learn the popular kids’ television shows, and study which colors are trending in home goods. What are the movies that just came out or will be released just before school starts?
These will all give you a good idea of the characters that will be popular on backpacks, lunch bags, notebooks, and the like.
Check out the toy section at places like Target, Walmart, and other big box stores, and take note of which characters get the big displays and are featured on end caps. Flip through store circulars to check out their Back to School ads.
You can also check a site like Pinterest and see what’s being pinned a lot. Go to other social media sites to search trending topics as well.
KARON: Is it easier to choose products by age group (grade level) or by which items should be needed by almost every student (all the way up to college)?
JESSICA: We recommend choosing products by age. It’s a good way to focus and home in on what you should buy. We even shop using lists that are sorted by age group. We break out age groups into Pre-K / K, Elementary School (grades 1–5); Junior High (6–8); High School; and College.
For the younger kids, you’ll look for a lot of character-themed supplies for their backpacks, lunch bags, and notebooks. They also use “funtainers,” or kids’ thermoses.
The older kids will be more into patterns and colors, and the pricier, name-brand backpacks and insulated lunch bags and thermoses. They also need flash drives and planners.
And don’t forget college students! They often need things like small appliances and, of course, food.
KARON: It seems a lot of BTS products wouldn’t leave much room for profit. A pack of pens or pencils can only sell for so much, right? Do you think it’s wise to create BTS bundles or kits?
JESSICA: Bundles and kits are an ideal way to package back-to-school supplies. It provides good profit for the seller and is extremely convenient for the buyer.
This doesn’t mean you have to package a dozen different items, though. We’ve had great success putting together a couple of inexpensive themed folders. Even though the profit per sale might be on the small side (say, $4 or so), if you sell 100 of those bundles, that’s an easy $400 in your pocket! And the investment wasn’t big.
There are numerous ways to create bundles, and we suggest doing a search on Amazon and Pinterest for ideas. If you’re a new seller, find bundles that already exist rather than trying to learn how to create one.
KARON: Is all BTS shopping done by parents? I know, when my nephew went to college, I started sending him care packages (including food and snacks). Is that something sellers should look into when sourcing products?
JESSICA: Absolutely! Aunts, uncles, and grandparents are often the people buying these items, and they might not be as cash-strapped as parents.
Care packages are a big business and provide a lot of opportunity for Amazon sellers. The thing to keep in mind is to pay attention to popular items, and find ways to differentiate yourself from other sellers.
The biggest thing to understand is the trends and the needs of the students. Regardless of who is doing the shopping, they’ll be looking for a lot of the same products.
KARON: How about adult students? There are TONS of working adults going back to school at night or online to get their degrees. How does BTS shopping affect them?
JESSICA: That’s a great question. As with other age groups, research is key. Find out what kinds of products these students need, and fill in the gaps! You’ll probably have less competition because other sellers tend to focus on standard groups.
Adult students will still need certain supplies, but obviously it won’t be a themed backpack or thermos. Perhaps they need USB drives, computer-related accessories, printer paper, printer ink, and things of that nature.
And don’t forget coffee — working adults probably aren’t getting a lot of sleep! Maybe some easy meal prep ideas as well, since they’ll have very limited time to shop and cook.
KARON: Now, what about search terms? Should sellers include specific keywords related to going back to school?
JESSICA: Yes! And right now, The Selling Family has created a free back-to-school keyword list that you can download with 40 search terms that Amazon shoppers are looking for right now. Go to the end of this blog post to get yours.
KARON: Any tips for Amazon sellers who want to dive into BTS selling?
JESSICA: Go for it! If you have kids, you already have a really good idea of the types of items they need. Just think about the stuff you need to buy, then send those same products in to Amazon.
Remember that research is key. Be smart about your purchases. Pay attention to the trends and look for what’s hot on Amazon.
And, of course, check out our Back-to-School Profits guide for detailed timelines, tips on trends, and shopping lists.
KARON: You are super-awesome, chick! Thanks for the interesting info (as always) and for getting everybody excited about the huge profits to be made during back-to-school season!
Now’s the perfect time to jump on the BTS bandwagon. Be sure to pick up your copy of Jessica’s Back-to-School Profits ebook today!