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Back-to-school shopping is big business for many retailers. This year, back-to-school spending is expected to reach $74.9 billion - a slight improvement from last year due to increasing demand for electronic school items.

As the battle for back-to-school dollars heats up, retailers are looking to trends such as selfies and online videos in the hopes of capturing the attention of customers.

Here are 3 interesting tactics from some well-known companies:

1. Cause marketing

Target is looking to a cause-related campaign to kick off the back-to-school season and boost awareness of its Up & Up brand.

The retailer will give one Up & Up brand school-supply product to a student in need for each Up & Up school supply purchased between July 13 and August 2. Ultimately, Target hopes to donate $25 million worth of supplies to the Kids In Need Foundation -- a goal it will be tracking and updating consumers on throughout the campaign.

This is the first time Target has tied a cause campaign to back-to-school, said Jenna Reck, a Target spokeswoman. She also noted that if Target hits the $25 million mark it will be the single largest donation the retailer has ever made. The campaign was inspired by Yoobi, a new school-supplies brand exclusive to Target. That brand has a "One for You, One for Me" mission and also works with the Kids In Need Foundation. - Natalie Zmuda, AdAge

Retailer @Target turns to cause #marketing for back-to-school season: (CLICK TO TWEET)

  1. Selfies

J.C. Penney Co. Inc. is leveraging the power of digital media in its latest marketing campaign that celebrates self-expression during the back-to-school season.

Plano-based Penney invites customers to create personalized emojis, or graphic smiley phases, that will be posted next to their selfies, photos they take of themselves, in an online gallery called Express Your Selfie.

The campaign launched Wednesday with two television spots, Stand Out and My Fit, and a Hispanic marketing spot. - Danielle Abril, Dallas Business Journal

For its back-to-school campaign, @JCPenney is inviting customers to take #selfies: (CLICK TO TWEET)

  1. Online videos

Old Navy is looking to online video this back-to-school season as CMO Ivan Wicksteed works to steer the retailer away from its reliance on TV.

At the center of that effort is an online music video for an original song called, "Unlimited," which plays on the anxieties of the first day of school. The online video aims to build on Old Navy's success with a recent series of TV spots starring Amy Poehler, whose outtakes went viral on YouTube. Ms. Poehler is also slated to appear in TV ads during the back-to-school season.

"We're trying to produce content that lives outside of TV," said Mr. Wicksteed. "It's more organic content that people want to watch." - Ashley Rodriguez, AdAge

Retailer @OldNavy will use online videos to drive back-to-school #marketing: (CLICK TO TWEET)

While these campaigns are unrelated, they are all based on trends that are currently popular with customers. These campaigns reiterate why in the high-stakes world of back-to-school marketing, knowing your customers is crucial. As online and mobile shopping becomes more prominent, competing for the attention of students and their families requires understanding what resonates with them and their needs. An online community of customers can help not just in refining back-to-school marketing campaigns; consistent customer engagement can help companies identify upcoming trends that can drive themes and approaches to these campaigns.

What do you think of these trends in back-to-school marketing? Let us know in the comments.

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