Back-to-school Selling on Amazon [What to Expect During COVID-19]

By Tinuiti Team

Back-to-school time is going to look a little bit different this year.

With so many parents likely to continue homeschooling because of COVID-19, back-to-school shopping trends won’t be the same as they were last year. That means that you can’t rely on the same back-to-school advertising campaigns and strategies that you used last year. 

In this post, we’ll share how you can plan ahead for the 2020 back-to-school shopping season.

Plan your back-to-school advertising campaigns ASAP

“While back-to-school shopping may look different this year compared to previous years, it’s important to plan promotional and advertising strategies early. Understanding that back to school planning and shopping may vary depending on geographic location will help develop a strong strategy.”

Maddie Kaseeska, Senior Manager, Marketplace Programmatic at Tinuiti



Whether you focus your ad spend on Amazon or across multiple channels, it’s time to ramp up promotion for your back-to-school products. The Amazon reps we work with at Tinuiti recommend raising campaign budgets around 2.5x to 3x during this shopping season.

Pro-tip: To give you an idea of how popular Amazon back-to-school shopping is, that’s also how much they recommend raising your budget during Prime Day. Even though this won’t be your typical back-to-school shopping season, parents still need to stock up for at-home learning. 

To figure out which products to boost the ad budget for, look at which products, keywords, and campaigns performed the best:

During Prime Day – Typically, Prime Day is the unofficial start of the back-to-school (online) shopping season, so sales during that shopping holiday can be a great predictor of school supply sale success.

When school shutdowns began – What did parents stock up on at the beginning of the stay-at-home orders? Promote those products to potential new customers. Are those products that people are likely to repurchase? If so, target repeat customers as part of your back-to-school campaigns.

“The biggest thing brands can do is continue to monitor current consumer shopping trends and plan ahead as we head into back-to-school season. We know back-to-shopping will not look the same in 2020, so leveraging learnings from previous years will not hold the same value or truth as before.”

Tess Reynolds, Senior Manager, Amazon & Marketplace Channels at Tinuiti
Looking back at early quarantine, not only did we see a huge demand for groceries but we also saw an exponential increase in children and home-related activities — think crafting and educational products.

“As a brand, you should consider what products will help bring the classroom feel into homes because educators and parents will be looking for ways to keep students engaged. Inventory management and advertising will always be important, but messaging, content, and videos will be key for consumer decision making,” Reynolds says.



MudWatt is a science kit that has garnered the attention of not only teachers and parents, but also Forbes, Wired, and TechCrunch. Keegan Cooke, the Executive Director of MudWatt mentions the importance of selling to parents via Amazon. 

“We have two different types of customers — teachers and parents. For parents, Amazon has been…a huge selling channel, so we’ll continue to use the promotional tools available through Amazon — like the Lightning Deals, advertisements, and other promotions.”

Pro-tip: Adding back-to-school (and homeschooling) language and imagery to your Sponsored Brand campaigns this season can help show customers why they need your products for the start of the new school year. Our experts recommend creating new ads with specific headlines that show why your products are relevant to this unique back-to-school season — don’t just rely on your current messaging.

Get your inventory ready for school supply sales

The global pandemic means that supply chains have become less predictable. Make sure that you have your school supply inventory ready as soon as you can — especially if you need to ship your product to Amazon in time for an Amazon back-to-school sale. 

“With supply chains for some products being longer than usual, anticipate demand by ordering supply as EARLY as possible. The last thing you want is to not have inventory on your top seller to participate in Back to School.”

Aaron Gooden, Associate Director, Marketplace Search at Tinuiti


To avoid stockouts and backorders, make sure that you have the right amount of inventory in stock before you run any back-to-school promotions.

Here’s what Amazon recommends for keeping what they call “healthy inventory” during popular shopping seasons:

Make room for new inventory: If you have new products coming in, check your current inventory levels and storage limits. Make sure you have room to organize and store your new inventory.

Look at sales data: What were your best sellers (or, if your brand is new, your category’s best sellers) during last year’s back-to-school shopping season? How much of each did you sell? How many units of each product did you sell on Prime Day? Knowing the answer to these questions can help you predict sales volume and inventory needs this year (and beyond).

Keep the “new normal” in mind: If you had any products that spiked in sales volume at the beginning of school shutdowns, make sure you have that product (and similar ones) well-stocked. If you’ve added new products designed for at-home learning since the start of stay-at-home orders, keep an eye on your inventory levels going into the back-to-school season.

“Expect less impact than usual during “seasonal” times like back to school. Trends are showing consumers decreasing “discretionary” spending since there is a lack of clarity on timing of schools re-opening. However, prepare (and promote) sooner rather than later for the potential and predicted panic of stock and supply for back to school season.”

Jessica Callaghan, Senior Manager, Amazon & Marketplace Channels at Tinuiti

How have you prepared for this year’s unusual back-to-school shopping season? Let us know in the comments!

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