Back-to-school season is in full swing, and you’re likely seeing backpacks, lunch gear and, in some cases, frazzled parents at local retailers.
Like many shopping seasons, back to school is happening earlier than it used to and people are spending more. Historically, the last three weeks before classes began were when most shopped, but July has been an increasingly popular time to get started. And 2016 consumer spend is expected to be $27.3 billion to 2015’s $24.9 billion.
Parents Shop in Stores, Research on Mobile and Buy Early
According to a report from Crowdtap, shoppers still prefer to buy in physical stores versus online retailers and places like Amazon for clothing (64 percent) and supplies (70 percent).
The National Retail Federation (NRF) gives a nice breakdown of which shopping channels will get the most traffic this year:
Google data tells us that a great deal of back-to-school shopping research is happening on mobile phones, up to 50 percent in 2015 from 2014’s 40 percent, and focusing more on local searches in the moment (e.g., “shoe stores near me” instead of “shoe store locations”).
HookLogic analyzed a network of top online retailers, looking at more than $100 million in sales and almost 1 million transactions from 2015. The trend they saw is traffic that starts to build slowly at the end of June, picks up quickly in July, peaks in August and then stays strong while tapering off in September.
Interestingly, the conversion rate peaked already in mid-July, suggesting that shoppers took advantage of early discounts. Apple got started with a deal especially early this year.
Top Back-to-School Items of 2016
The National Retail Federation reports that clothing, accessories and electronics are where most back-to-school dollars will be spent, nearly double what goes into supplies and shoes.
Amazon frequently updates its list of most popular items in education supplies, which has surprisingly included more traditional items such as scented markers, pink erasers and Texas Instrument calculators.
If we go into Google Trends, we can see how specific back-to-school online searches changed over the summer. For example, backpacks have doubled their interest since early July with southern United States regions searching the term more often than northern ones. Local advertisers should pay special attention to when their regions are searching for things like backpacks, clothes, school electronics, etc.
Also interesting are the backpack-related queries on the rise as school draws nearer:
Some searches are more general, such as “trendy backpacks 2016,” which was up 130 percent at the time of writing. Others are reflective of current cultural trends, such as the 600 percent rise in queries for Pokémon.
Tips for Your Back-to-School Advertising
Where do you start with back-to-school advertising? We’ve gathered a few tips to help you begin.
Planning for Search
Google Trends is a great place to start learning about the various searches people perform for their back-to-school research and shopping, and offers insight into your particular region. Check there frequently, and consider building those terms into your paid search advertising strategies.
Marketing and Advertising Channels Online
According to the Crowdtap report I referenced earlier, shoppers said social media and blogs rather than traditional advertising such as television ads drove more purchases. Along with that, 25 percent of shoppers organized their lists with Pinterest boards.
For advertisers, this is yet one more reason to be present and active on social media. Create and share content that helps parents figure out what they need and how to get it in an affordable way.
And make sure your brand is on those Pinterest shopping lists by checking out tactics like Promoted Pins for businesses.
The Mobile Shopping Experience
Not surprisingly, mobile is a big part of the shopping experience these days. Consider mobile-minded features in your text ads for the Google Search Network like price and call extensions that immediately give shoppers what they’re looking for.
And don’t forget offers that will make you stand out from the crowd. The NRF study found that 89.4 percent of shoppers will take advantage of free shipping. If that’s a possibility for you, it might be worth offering on your more profitable orders.
Finally, ensure that your customers are enjoying a positive mobile research/shopping experience once they land on your site or in your store, and make it easy for them to sail seamlessly into a purchase. .
Endorsements and Copycat Strategies
Securing a kid-celebrity endorsement is highly valuable for any back-to-school brand. Going beyond kid-to-kid influence, young celebrities are especially effective if parents have an interest in the family of the child (think Suri Cruise or Prince George of Cambridge).
For those who aren’t partnering with A-list celebrities and royalty, share ways that your products can recreate the trends for less. Aligning your brand with a certain look can be advantageous for smaller companies.
Remember that you’re advertising to kids as well as adults. Children in upper elementary and beyond often have their own phones, and see plenty of advertising. While low prices and blogs might not be huge influences on them, attractive images with familiar characters and fun patterns are.
Now is the time—we’re right in the thick of it. Back-to-school shopping is happening everywhere, and will continue even after the kids are back in their classrooms. Stay atop the marketing and advertising trends, make some noise on social media and attract the eyes of kids, and you’ll definitely make the grade this school year.