Parents and students recently celebrated the end of another school year, and marketers are already thinking ahead about the next one. Back-to-school budgets are starting to be planned, and new data from Rakuten Advertising shows that shopping habits will look a bit different from what we quickly dubbed “the new normal.”

According to the survey, most parents (27 percent) plan on doing all their shopping in-store, and a quarter (25 percent) plan to split their shopping evenly between online and in-store. Another 24 percent plan on doing most of their shopping in-store with some online. Only 8 percent of parents are planning on all-online shopping.

This means that marketers need to think strategically about how to drive foot traffic and appeal to people who are browsing shopping malls and outlets. With that said, simply promoting in-store deals through digital channels isn’t enough. Marketers need to get creative with their promotional strategies and build a bridge between e-commerce and in-store experiences.

Stacking Online Incentives to Be Collected In-Person

Even if parents are planning on making back-to-school purchases in-person, many will still leverage online marketplaces to browse and select which retailers to visit. Marketers can leverage digital channels to promote in-store offers that will make a retailer more appealing to back-to-school shoppers.

Retailers should stack different rewards strategies (e.g., cash back; buy now, pay later; steep discounts; etc.) for exclusive in-store redemption to create unique, engaging offers that appeal to a larger group of parents and give consumers that “winning” feeling of getting a great deal. A smart rewards strategy is key to back-to-school success this year, as only 5 percent of shoppers won’t be seeking out rewards for their back-to-school needs. In fact, 36 percent of parents will always seek out shopping incentives when making back-to-school purchases.

Card-Linked Loyalty

Even with consumers gearing up to return to in-store shopping for their back-to-school needs, retailers shouldn’t mistake this for a sign of a return to previous loyalty. With inflation on the rise and years of the pandemic skewing consumer shopping behavior, consumers are looking for ways to maintain their shopping frequency without breaking the bank.

As inflation continues to surge, we’re witnessing a trend where shoppers are tiering down their spending so they can continue to shop. Someone who usually shops at Macy’s, for example, may start shopping at Kohl’s. Back-to-school retailers should be preparing to fight for new and existing shoppers and shouldn’t assume any brand loyalty at this point.

These marketers can retain more of their loyal customers if they invest in card-linked offers and other rewards strategies that are proven to keep shoppers coming back time and time again. By delivering these offers, shoppers will feel more comfortable with keeping their tier of spending and retailers won’t lose loyal customers to cheaper alternatives.

As marketers prepare their back-to-school budgets strategically, creative rewards incentives are going to make or break retail success. Those that invest in driving in-store traffic and strategies that maintain loyalty will win out, and those that remain stagnant will undoubtedly fall behind.

Erin Warren is the general manager of Rakuten In Store Network, a company allowing users to get cash back any time they shop.