Graduation Season Tips for Your eCommerce Business

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Every year around this time marks new beginnings. Sure, I could take this as an opportunity to wax poetic about how the blooming of trees and flowers have inspired a spirit of renewal, but let me save that for my next poetry slam (cue the finger snapping). Shockingly, I’m not even talking about spring. 

What I’m talking about is the exciting time of year where young adults don their caps, gowns, and masks, shake sanitized hands and walk across a stage with diplomas commemorating their high school or college years. Oh, and all that Starbucks coffee consumption, of course. Graduation season is in full swing and with it comes all that celebratory gift-giving from friends and family. May the well-organized card section of every Target and grocery store rest in peace.

And what does all of this gift-giving mean for eCommerce? For one, the National Retail Federation expects that people will spend a total of $5.1 billion on graduation gifts, with the average consumer spending around $112. Besides cash, gift cards, apparel, and electronics are consistently the most popular items gifted to graduates. The good news there is, gift cards aren’t limited to specific verticals, so every vertical can capture a part of that $5.1 billion market. 

How, you ask?

1. Prioritize the items that are most commonly gifted

When you think of graduation gifts, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? For a lot of us, and definitely for me, it’s cash. While it is true that 51% of the gifts given in 2020 were cash, certain verticals see more action around graduation. Like I teased in the intro, three of the most popular graduation purchases are gift cards, apparel, and electronics. In 2020, for example, gift cards captured 37% of the market, with apparel and electronics following at 16% and 11%. 

Considering the versatility of gift cards, it’s no wonder why they come in as the second most popular graduation gift. The highly customizable gift just makes sense, especially because some graduations are still happening virtually this year. So, for those attending via live stream, popping gift cards in the mail or sending them electronically is an easy win. 

With that 37% market share, gift cards are worth focusing on for eCommerce businesses. To start, remind shoppers that you do offer gift cards. To bring even more attention to them, think about presenting incentives to those who spend a certain dollar amount on gift cards. One way to do so is offering a smaller $25 gift card as a present to shoppers who purchase a $100 gift card. Alternatively, you could offer gift cards as a bonus with the purchase of certain items.

When it comes to the apparel vertical, market items that can be worn to graduation celebrations or added to the ever-growing professional wardrobes of soon-to-be graduates. As for electronics, highlight items that graduates are most likely to use in college or higher education. Think laptops, tablets, headphones, and smartwatches. If you’re really in the spirit, maybe even offer some graduation discounts. 

2. Partner with content affiliates to get your products in graduation gift guides 

Around any holiday or big event worth celebrating, the gift guides begin to come out. Whether it’s a list of eight Valentine’s Day gifts to buy your karate-loving partner or five things your foodie of a mama would adore for Mother’s Day, these gift guides are helpful for shoppers who need some direction. 

In the affiliate space, affiliates such as bloggers, content sites, and media sites curate gift guides. Getting your product or service featured in gift guides like these around graduation season can bring a boost in sales, broaden awareness of your brand, and even lead to new customers. The press doesn’t hurt, either. Especially if you share it on your website, social media, or in email marketing. 

When it comes to getting your product into a gift guide, there are a few ways to prepare. Of the most paramount, though, is making sure that your online store is ready for shoppers who want to make immediate purchases after clicking on the affiliate link in the gift guide. 

3. Get your website ready for graduation traffic

When graduation shoppers—or even graduates—flock to your website, ensure that your website is ready to go. How? A solid place to start is planning your marketing campaigns and updating your website with any graduation promotions you may have. Whether shoppers are browsing from their phones or computers, your website needs to be a well-oiled machine around this time. If shoppers run into any slowdowns or errors, they may be quick to turn elsewhere for their celebratory gifts. As insurance, consider using tools like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to ensure your website is all geared up. 

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Whether you’re a soon-to-be graduate, a friend of one, or just someone who likes graduation music, we can all agree that graduation is a significant milestone. eCommerce businesses can revel in that same enthusiasm by gearing up for expected apparel, electronics, and gift card purchases. Hopefully, these tips will get you off on the right foot and get you excited for the season!

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