How tech and telecom brands should prepare for this year’s back-to-school season

June 23rd, 2022 | John Poelking

During the last two back-to-school seasons, students and parents needed to stock up and prepare to substitute classrooms for couches in a time when online schooling became inevitable. Laptops and tablets were mandatory if kids were going to stay connected to their education at all, adding to an increased demand for home hardware during the pandemic. To capitalize on this, telecom brands increased the volume of their direct mail school promotions by 11% Y/Y from 2020, according to Comperemedia’s 2021 Back-to-School competitive analysis.

However, many schools are cautiously optimistic about a relative return to normalcy this upcoming fall semester, which will create different (or diminishing) technological demands for the majority of families. Mintel’s US Back to School research shows that there’s a significant difference between the share of college students who bought electronics in 2021 (36%) compared to those who plan to buy electronics for the 2022 school year (28%). Similarly, only 23% of Canadians who plan to participate in back-to-school shopping bought electronics in 2021 and plan to buy more in 2022.

Unlike clothing and school supplies, larger hardware does not need to be as frequently replenished, which will mean tech retailers, internet providers, and wireless carriers will not be able to depend on promoting discounted products as much in their 2022 back-to-school campaigns. 

Keeping the school spirit alive will require some creativity in a few key areas:

Internet reliability: Just because children are leaving the home again doesn’t mean they don’t need a stable connection while they are doing their homework. A sustainable connection will be essential for brands to hammer home when families are re-adjusting their home technology demands again.

Family plans: Rather than focusing on new phones or laptops, wireless carriers can make sure that families can stay together no matter where they’re going to school. This will be particularly crucial for kids that are going away to college for the first time. Families will want to stay on the same plan to cut down on the school stresses that have only compounded over the past few years.

The old college try: Brands that do want to push hardware in the upcoming school year will need to primarily focus on the college crowd since they will be the ones most in need of technology away from their homes. Messages of independence could resonate with a group that is standing on their own for the first time.

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John Poelking

John Poelking

John Poelking is Comperemedia's Research Manager of Technology, Media, and Telecom, providing omni-channel marketing analysis and competitive intelligence for syndicated and custom insights.