Retailers Use Social Media To Spur Back-To-School Sales

Researchers see growth in Web 2.0-style campaigns as fall shopping season kicks off.
More retailers are turning to social media to drum up business among back-to-school shoppers, according to recent research.

Social networking sites, virtual worlds, social shopping sites, visual search engines, interactive video, and widgets have emerged as key marketing platforms for the 2008 back-to-school shopping season, JupiterResearch reported. But while social media offers some marketing benefits, it may not increase online sales, Jupiter said.

"The back-to-school season has grown in importance for retailers and leads into the all important fourth quarter sales period," Patti Freeman Evans, research director and online retail analyst at Jupiter, said in a statement. "With the shaky economy expected to impact the amount of money consumers spend on back-to-school shopping, retailers are using social media to capture the attention of younger consumers."

Major retailers, like JC Penney, Victoria's Secret, and Apple have turned to Web 2.0 technologies to promote their products.

JC Penney created an online game called "DorkDodge" for girls, as well as an interactive marketing campaign. Players have to navigate their way past undesirable boyfriends to find their dream dates. The marketing campaign, with a "Breakfast Club" theme, shows teens how to "get that look" with clothes from JC Penney stores.

In a Sears marketing campaign, actress Vanessa Hudgens from "High School Musical" plays different characters to show different styles that can be put together with clothing from Sears department stores.

Victoria's Secret worked with 33 universities to launch Pink's Collegiate Collection, which features the universities' colors and mascots on shirts, accessories and sports gear.

Apple has offered students and faculty from accredited universities free iPods with their computer purchases.

However, David Schatsky, president of Jupiter, said that retailers using Web 2.0 features for marketing will benefit more in terms of brand awareness than direct sales since social media has shown little direct impact on online retail sales.