The back-to-school season is in full swing in my household, and while I sampled a taste of the madness with pre-school last year, nothing quite prepared me for the kindergarten kickoff experience this year. Between school supply lists, car pickup and drop-off maps, parent orientation, student codes-of-conduct, dress code requirements, and the desperate cry for parent volunteers, this momma is worn out and the school year is just beginning.

So, here’s my plea to retailers and brands alike … provide tangible value to me & win my loyalty! Simple, right? Well, that’s the goal, to provide value and in exchange inherit loyal customers and fans. So the question becomes, how do retailers and brands provide tangible value? I’ve compiled a few key tactics to get you started.

Personalize the message

I cannot stress enough the relevancy factor! Seriously, send me a blanket email blast and I’ll hit the delete button faster than you can say “sent.” And I’m not talking simple list segmentation either. Getting the context right is mission critical. Let’s face it, we all get inundated daily by brands vying for a piece of the shopping action. The brands that get noticed are the ones that truly know their customers and invest in content quality over quantity. Here’s a free tip for today: consider regional differences in vernacular and weather patterns and incorporate this into your campaigns and messaging at a granular level.

Timing really is key

The back-to-school shopping season has become a top spending category, second only to the holiday months. The summer seems to get shorter each year, and with that comes an earlier jump-start on back-to-school shopping. Google search data confirms this trend, with back-to-school related search queries sharply rising the week of July 11th, a week earlier than in 2015.  Also noteworthy, January is the second go-around of the back-to-school shopping frenzy.

We’re all familiar with the Proverb, “the early bird gets the worm” because it’s true! Brands that get ahead of the back-to-school shopping season and provide useful content and products to their customers are winning. Ready for some good news if you’re late to the party? It’s not too late! Recalibrate your strategy now, and it’s never too early to start preparing for the next surge in January. Take the lead with a mobile first strategy and provide helpful information such as how-to content and product reviews, in a seamless shopping experience way.

back to school Search chart

Tell me what’s trending

Score me some “cool mom” points by letting me know what’s trending right now, relevant to my school-ager. Hey, I’ll be one of the first to jump on the “be yourself” bandwagon, but I’m not about to discredit my child’s desire to fit in when it comes to school. Brands that understand this, leverage social influencers, YouTube celebrities, and word-of-mouth (think user-generated content), just to name a few, to stay relevant and top of mind.

Want more data and helpful tips to be a marketing rock star this back-to-school season? Check out this infographic from The Shelf.