After three disrupted school years in a row, a return to normalcy means back-to-school shopping is back. As a result, brands are pulling out all the stops to market school supplies, fashion and, increasingly, beauty.
While fashion has long been a back-to-school pillar, beauty brands have also caught on to the shopping period that generally begins in August for teens, tweens and college-bound young adults. Special-edition collections and social shopping campaigns on Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram are increasingly being used to reach Gen-Z shoppers, as most of them are finally back in the classroom full-time.
According to data from the National Retail Federation, expected back-to-school spending has surged in 2022, up 40.6% per family for kindergarten through 12th-grade students and 35.5% for college students, compared to 2019.
“The first day of school is such a monumental time for tweens and teens,” said Samantha Cutler, founder and CEO of tween-oriented beauty brand Petite ‘n Pretty. This year, the brand’s back-to-school sets and merch launched on August 15 drove a 40% increase in the brand’s total sales in August, compared to the earlier summer months. They were promoted on TikTok and Instagram for Gen-Z consumers and on Facebook for parents and grandparents looking for gift ideas.
NRF also found that inflation is front-of-mind for consumers, with 42% of back-to-school shoppers surveyed saying they are searching for sales in 2022, compared to 30% in 2019. In addition, 43% are doing more comparative shopping online, an increase from 28% in 2019.
As a result, discretionary gifting categories like beauty need discounts more than ever this year. According to Dino Ha, co-founder and CEO of beauty startup MBX, “There seem to be limited options for students, when it comes to what is [both] affordable and high quality, and it’s great to offer bundles or deals.” The company offered a 25% discount on popular product sets for its skin-care brand I Dew Care and makeup brand Kaja. As a result, I Dew Care saw a 49% increase in gross sales for August 8-21, compared to the prior two-week period.
Social shopping is key to promotions targeting Gen Z this season. The bundles for I Dew Care and Kaja, for example, were featured on the brand’s TikTok and Instagram accounts in shoppable short videos. On TikTok, back-to-school videos showed product listing links guiding back to the brands’ DTC sites. Meanwhile, Reels videos on Instagram had a similar feature leading directly to Instagram checkout.
“TikTok has been such a great and easily digestible platform for people, especially in this genre of #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt. Lots of students are posting helpful school tips, and dorm and budget-friendly hauls that people are excited to see,” said Ha.
“Euphoria” makeup artist Donni Davy’s Half Magic, meanwhile, is offering special back-to-school discount sets on the brand’s Instagram shop, with product listings leading to its brand site. Petite ‘n Pretty also offers checkout on Instagram for its back-to-school sets.
For Ulta Beauty’s back-to-school campaign, it is sponsoring a shoppable Lens on Snapchat. Users can play a mini-game where they catch beauty products by L’Oréal, Urban Decay, Lancôme, Matrix and more in a shopping bag. Once they catch seven items, they are given a link to shop the back-to-school curation on the retailer’s landing page.
Since the retailer first adopted shoppable Lens partnerships in January, Ulta Beauty has seen it pay off. It generated $6 million in purchases and 30 million product try-ons for its holiday campaign, according to Snapchat data.
According to Cutler, beauty is a growing part of the back-to-school shopping list. This year, makeup sales have seen a resurgence, especially lip products as an estimated 97% of U.S. schools will no longer require masks for the upcoming school year. “Brushed-up brows, mascara, light face makeup with pops of color on the cheeks and glossy lips” are among the back-to-school beauty trends she is seeing this year.