“The Back-to-School Campaign is not as Usual”: the Experience of the Largest Ukrainian Electronics Retailers

For retailers in different countries, the Back to School Season is no less significant than Black Friday or the Christmas holidays. 

The volume of goods for schools increased by 24% from 2019 to 2022 and exceeded $34 billion.And more than a third of this total is spent online, according to the 2022 Deloitte Back-To-School Survey. Usually, the season begins in August, and the peak of buyer activity occurs in the second or third week of the month.

Ukraine is not an exception: according to the semantic queries in Google Trends over the past 5 years, regular jumps take place in the last weeks of August for the queries “school uniform”, “stationery”, “laptops”, etc. This year, according to service forecasts, the peak falls on August 28 – September 3.

The current season in Ukraine is unusual. Due to the war, more than 2,000 educational institutions were destroyed or damaged, 14 million Ukrainians were forced to leave their homes, and in the east and south, schools and universities will not be able to resume education in the traditional offline format. “This year, Back to school in Ukraine is not at all the usual “back to school”, it is very different,” says Vladyslav Sementsov, Head of Digital Marketing at Eldorado.ua. It’s difficult, indeed. 

However, the back-to-school campaign is not only about school children. This is about education in general, about people returning from vacations, getting into the work rhythm, and updating equipment and supplies for work and study. So what is the season like in Ukraine in 2022? We spoke to the biggest speciality retailers about their expectations, plans and activities in the season.

Expectations from Customers

In the research on Ukrainian eCommerce during the War, we have already indicated that the activity of buyers began to recover rapidly in May. However, there was a significant redistribution of demand by region, and a new trend also appeared: many people bought those items that they lost or could not take with them during the move. The electronics and household appliances segment was on the list of the niches that restored income and even jumped over the pre-war indicator as of the end of May. At the time, the trend took place due to a sharp increase in the average check. Currently, a jump is also expected in this category, but for a different reason: people will buy gadgets and equipment before the new school year.

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According to the results of our survey, the largest share of retailers have neutral expectations for the season and do not expect to see anything extraordinary. However, 20% of them make positive predictions. A slight shift in the chronological framework of the season is also expected.

Usually, the school preparation season started at the end of July and lasted until the end of August. Now the trend has changed: the season started in mid-August and will end sometime in mid-September.

                     — Evgeny Tkachenko, СМО Officeman.ua

The behaviour of Ukrainian buyers during the back-to-school season, according to the surveyed retailers:

  • Ukrainians will choose a product with the best price/quality ratio, paying less attention to the brand;
  • customers will prefer familiar brands, and will be even less decisive about unfamiliar ones;
  • they will buy those goods that they could not take when moving;
  • will be more careful when shopping, choosing the most secure payment methods;
  • demand for children’s clothing and shoes will grow in those regions where offline education has resumed.

However, the players note that the success of the season will depend not only on the buyers but also on the suppliers of the goods and the situation in the country. As part of Promodo’s “Business at War” conference on August 25, we heard extensive responses on this issue from the biggest players in the market.

We have low expectations regarding back-to-school because a very large number of children and their mothers are outside the country, and where they will update their tablets and laptops this year is a big question. Yes, we see that people are now buying more than just necessities. However, the share of the premium has significantly decreased. The target audience of the segment is mostly not located in Ukraine.

— Oleksiy Zozulya, СЕО Foxtrot

The co-founder of ROZETKA, Vladyslav Chechotkin, said that earlier they could afford to fill warehouses with a reserve, but in the current conditions, they should be more careful.

It is very difficult to predict how demand will change, how back-to-school will take place, and whether it can even be called back-to-school. We are currently trying to balance between having enough stock and having a little more than we need. Previously, they were guided by the principle “take more – throw further”. And now a reduction in the assortment and an increase in prices take place.

— Vladyslav Chechotkin, CEO of ROZETKA

Budget for Back-to-School Promotion Campaigns in Ukraine in 2022

To find out about advertising costs, we anonymously interviewed retailers that sell products that are usually in demand during the season.

Overall, in 2022, 83% of retailers cut their promotional budget to some extent. The most common reduction is 25-50%. But the budget for activities before the school season was reduced by all respondents, in some places the reduction occurred more than twice compared to the previous year. The companies also note that they do not launch promotions in temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.

Last week, we turned on media advertising (August 15-21, — ed.). A rational decision would be to direct this budget to performance channels, but we decided to invest in advertising because people should remember our brand. It may seem that everything should be done for profit, but no. That’s why we launched a media campaign for back-to-school. Now we have almost all channels (as before the war, ed.), just their volume is lower. Google Performance Max was also connected with the help of Promodo.

Of course, you can chase a large share of the market, investing large budgets in it, but that is not our story. We look at efficiency.

— Vladyslav Sementsov, Head of Digital Marketing, Eldorado.ua

We have already described in our recent case how switching to Performance Max brought Eldorado.ua +58% profit in a month.

How Messages Changed because of War

The nature of communication has changed for all Ukrainian retailers without exception. Among the responses of our customers, we have determined the following trends:

  • companies adapt to wartime conditions, take into account the sensitivities of buyers now and choose topics for messages more carefully;
  • they implement social projects to support the armed forces and children;
  • they also added light trolling of Russians to their communication;
  • they make more patriotic accents.

Everyone adapts differently, but they do, and it affects communication in the current season.

Promotion + strong text from MAUDAU

Club of Good People from officeman.ua

Emphasis on online learning + call for donations

Greetings in accordance with the current situation in Ukraine, using patriotic accents

Some of the Ukrainian retailers admitted that they chose the strategy of not announcing the promo at all. This can also be an appropriate move in communication because even in half a year, not all buyers were able to recover from the shock and become open to promotional offers again. Therefore, it is not necessary to attack with a promo right away, it should be implemented gradually.

There is currently no correct option in communication, as well as in performance promotion. However, the market is coming to life, buyers are becoming more active – this can be said for sure. We hope that after a cautious back-to-school season we will have a more confident and active Black Friday and New Year’s holiday season, followed by a full recovery of the Ukrainian market.

Having successful experience in accompanying the largest market players in times of war, Promodo has proven to be a highly professional marketing agency, which is ready to work in a crisis. We will also be happy to apply all our knowledge to build your business. 

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“The Back-to-School Campaign is not as Usual”: the Experience of the Largest Ukrainian Electronics Retailers

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