The Key Trends Driving the £8B Back to School Shopping Season


School may be out a few more weeks, but back to school shopping is well underway. With over £8 billion in retail and e-commerce sales forecasted for the 2016 back to school shopping season, there’s a lot of opportunity for advertisers to capture online and in-store sales before the big end of year holiday season. Let’s take a look at some of the key trends this season and how marketers can optimize their back to school campaigns.

When are People Shopping?

Historically, back to school shopping was a completely in-store experience with mom or dad taking kids to one or two big-box stores a week before the first day of school. Now, however, we’re seeing shopping is spread out across weeks, with nearly 75% of people beginning shopping three or more weeks before the start of school.

If retailers want to capture the widest audience possible for their campaigns, this means they need to get started early! With surveys showing early bird shoppers getting started as early as June, retailers need to have their campaign assets (ads, coupons, promotions) as well as inventory ready to go as early as May.

The Omni-Channel Back to School Shopping Experience

Aside from the question of when people are shopping, another important factor is where. This year, back to school shopping is set to break records in more ways than just revenue. For one, the divide between in-store and digital is increasingly eroding with e-commerce BTS sales projected to increase 15.3% from last year.

But just because more shoppers are going online to shop and find deals, doesn’t mean in-store shopping is dead. In fact, the majority of retail transactions still occur offline. The relationship between in-store purchasing and online purchasing is a very fluid one, with online research influencing in-store purchasing and vice versa. For example, more than two-thirds of shoppers will use mobile devices to research back to school products. However, despite the heavy amount of shoppers researching on mobile, when it comes to actual spend, mobile shopping accounts for about 30% of all US e-commerce sales according to Internet Retailer.

We found this to be the case for one luxury jewelry retailer during the 2015 holiday season. Campaign results revealed mobile accounted for the largest share of digital impressions and 68% of in-store sales.

To maximize back to school sales, retailers must take a fluid, cross-device, cross-channel approach to their advertising campaigns. This means having a clearer understanding of the consumer’s pathway to purchase and then based on this, optimizing campaign elements to improve this pathway.

Now that retailers are armed with more knowledge about the how, when, and where people shop, the necessary next step in building a successful back to school campaign is knowing who your audience is.

Reaching Key Back to School Shoppers

Most back to school shoppers are…drum roll please…Parents! Not a big surprise here. However, what is important to know is that parents are spending more than they have in previous years, with an average spend of $1,239 predicted this year. And with 17 states offering tax-free back to school shopping weekends, there’s more incentive this year than ever to bulk up on supplies.

Another important group that is often ignored by advertisers are teachers. On average, teachers spend $500 of their own money on school supplies. Considering public school systems alone employ roughly 3.1 million full-time-teachers as of 2015, that’s $1.5 billion in buying power.

While knowing your audience is a big step, finding out how to actually target them based on what you know is a huge advantage for marketers. For example, instead of targeting the broad consumer group of parents, you could deterministically target individual consumers’ based on how many children they have or the ages of their children.

This is where people-based targeting comes into play. The people-based approach relies on registered user data, rather than cookies, to construct one single view of the consumer. Using this approach, retailers can create an accurate consumer profile and execute a highly targeted, measurable campaign that accounts for the fluid movement across a retailer’s online and offline channels.

Creating this online-to-offline link ultimately helps retailers gain cross channel insight into how, when, and where their customers are interacting with their brand’s messages.

  • #ad targeting
  • #cookies
  • #digital advertising
  • #digital media
  • #e-commerce
  • #people-based advertising
  • #registered users
  • #retailers
  • #shopping
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