20 Ways Canadian Online Retailers Can Win 2019 Back-To-School Sales

The 2019 back-to-school shopping season is poised to be one of the most successful of recent years for Canadian eCommerce. Canadians are spending more online in Canada, and using the Internet as a tool for comparison shopping and bargain hunting.  In fact, 87 percent of Canadians made an online purchase in 2018, according to the CIRA Internet Factbook.

The low Canadian dollar, coupled with the “buy Canadian” mindset of late, is expected to keep more retail sales in Canada this year.  Between trade issues and the low loonie, you may even bring in some American back-to-school shoppers. Ecommerce brings the World to our doorstep and the low Canadian dollar invites them in.

Canadian Back-to-School Statistics

The most recent data from Statistics Canada shows there were 5,068,587 students enrolled in Canadian public elementary and secondary school programs for the 2015/2016 school year. Canadian households spent an average of $1,688 on education that year.

According to a 2019 MiQ study of back-to-school trends:

  • Canadians spent an average of $183 on getting students back to school in 2018.
  • A third of back-to-school shopping will be online this year, increasing to more than $1.5 billion.
  • Online purchases accounted for 8.5% of all retail sales in 2018, which is expected to increase to 11% in 2019.
  • The search for bargains on clothing will be done online by 69 percent of respondents. Multi-channel strategies that combine mobile and in-store experiences will see the most success in categories like electronics, with 71 percent of deal hunting being done on mobile devices while shoppers are in a physical store.

20 Ways Canadian Retailers Can Win Back-To-School Sales Online

Canadian eCommerce merchants and other online sellers of school supplies, clothing and related technology can use many strategies to offer convenience, add value and reduce price. If you haven’t started selling online, NOW is a great time to start. You’ll be positioned to take full advantage of the back-to-school season and then go right into the profitable holiday season. Find Canadian-friendly website hosting and a Canadian-friendly eCommerce platform that’s easy to use and you’re on your way.

  • Optimize your website to ensure Canadians will find you when they’re searching. Remember that Google is now favouring mobile-friendly websites for mobile searches, and more Canadians are searching on their smartphone than ever before. Forty-six percent of Canadians actually made a purchase from their mobile device in 2018.  Make sure your website is mobile-friendly and employ omni-channel strategies for the most success.
  • We all know why toys are advertised during children’s shows. Promote your best deals and “gotta have it” items on social media because that’s where the kids are.
  • It has become common for parents to hand over their credit card to teens for back-to-school online shopping.  It changes the shopping dynamic when teens hold the credit card. What appeals to them certainly won’t be the same as what appeals to their parents, and they aren’t too keen on store loyalty. They want what teens have always wanted, the cool stuff of the moment. Give them a new twist on that cool item and they’ll be eating out of the palm of your hand. If you want to reach teens it’s important to be present on social media, both for campaigns and for customer support.
  • Engage those mommy/family bloggers! We have a list of PA30+ Canadian bloggers to get you started.  Influencer marketing has proven to be the most cost-effective, successful tool in today’s marketing tool box. You can target virtually any demographic with a level of precision that other marketing channels can’t touch. Additionally, increased conversions and brand exposure can continue to benefit your business beyond the end of your actual campaign.
  • Offer free or low flat-rate shipping.
  • Bonus items are always popular, such as including a hot back-to-school item free with purchase, or a freebie with purchases over a certain dollar amount, BOGO (buy one, get one free), and so on.
  • Contests can bring back-to-school shoppers to your site and social media pages. Designer backpacks, tablets, and “win your purchase” are just a few possible prizes. Allow bonus entries for social media sharing.
  • Online discounts and coupons (or printable coupons if you have an offline store).Winning Canadian Back-to-School Sales Online
  • Promote or start a loyalty or reward program. “Retailers that offer loyalty or reward programs offer an added bonus to students and parents who are looking to get the most of their money,” suggests Mike Bonner, Vice President, Commercial Banking, GTA Division, Bank of Montreal.
  • Feature price-matching policies prominently.
  • Make it clear that you are located in Canada and clearly label products made in Canada. Encourage shoppers to shop Canadian and buy local. Reach out to American shoppers looking to get a deal on Canadian dollar purchases. Seventy-two percent of Americans say they’re willing to purchase online from Canada (more than any other country), according to a Bronto Ipsos survey, but only 20 percent have actually done so. Make the low loonie work for you in 2019.
  • Stock unique or novelty items that Canadian kids “just gotta have” and promote them like crazy so parents searching for specific products will find you.
  • Bundle back-to-school products for convenient online shopping and offer a great deal on these packages. That could be anything from one-click “basics” purchases, to trending theme bundles like Toy Story and Star Wars theme school supplies.
  • Offer assurance to online Canadian shoppers by providing a guarantee. If possible, allow returns to an offline store.
  • Offer gift cards or certificates for parents to give to older children and university students. Make it easy with instant eMail delivery.
  • A very effective and efficient way to get in front of thousands of online back-to-school shoppers is to start an affiliate program through a network. You’ll quickly build an online sales force and you’ll only pay when they send you a sale.
  • If you’re an affiliate marketer or blogger, you can feature back-to-school sales and coupons from your favourite merchants through networks (like Share-A-Sale).
  • It’s a fantastic time of year to get into drop shipping, which requires no inventory and allows you to have purchases shipped all over the World if you want to. You can be up and running in time to cash in on back-to-school shopping and you’ll be ready for holiday shoppers.
  • Consider selling products to bargain-hunting Canadians via online marketplaces.  While the environment is more competitive, it will allow you to take advantage of the massive traffic these sites get.
  • Donate a portion of profits during August/September to a Canadian-run education or other child-related charity. Shoppers love to help causes while buying items they need anyway. Plus, many charities promote their benefactors online.

??? Are you targeting online back-to-school shoppers in Canada in 2019? Please share your ideas or questions in the comments below.

✔ You may also be interested in reading:
Canadian Stores Can Grab Global Online Shoppers (Statistics)
Study: Retailers of all Sizes Using Dropshipping for Online Orders
10 Hot Product Niches to Sell or Drop Ship Online in Canada


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Digital Business & Marketing Manager at | Website | + posts

Melody McKinnon's formal education is in business management, which she enhanced with more than 60 certifications revolving around business, marketing, health, general sciences and writing. In over 20 years of working online, she has owned or managed both educational and eCommerce websites.

Melody has worked with many businesses & brands in a multitude of capacities. She can often be found on CanadiansInternet.com, CanadianFamily.net and AllNaturalPetCare.com, as well as other quality digital publications. Her content has earned reference links from highly-respected websites, magazines and university textbooks.

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This information is very eye opening. I got school details from https://schooldirect.org/canada/ but it seems like most schools are closed at the moment and no responses.


This is great advice, thank you for the continued nudges and ideas!!

S. Timmins

I’m officially blown away by everything you’ve thought of for us to try. We’l be selling online by the holidays and it’s scary but exciting. I can’t wait to see what difference it makes to our sales numbers by the end of the year. Your info really helps… thank you so much.

Kade L.

Seriously great effort here. Thanks for sharing ecommerce tips they really help.

Leonna Jackson

Awesome insights! Ecommerce could really fly in Canada but I think most stores have alot to learn yet. I work for a small boutique and have been trying to talk them into an online store for a couple of years. They’re petrified of it but I think they’re finally considering it.