What Works With Back-To-School Ads

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. No, not December -- but rather Back-to-School time. The time of year when kids lose freedom and parents gain it back. And the time of year when marketers gear up for the shopping frenzy that goes along with it all.

Even though consumers these days are less enthusiastic about the economy than they were before the crash in 2008, they will still splurge in order to send their kids off to school in style. While back-to-school spending isn't expected to be as robust as it was before the recession, the total haul will still be the second largest spending period behind the Holiday season. The National Retail Federation is forecasting total back-to-school (K-12) and back-to-college at $68.8 billion, an increase of 2.5% over last year. The majority of spending goes towards clothing, textbooks, and computer, electronics related equipment.

So, what's the best way to reach consumers embarking on back-to-school shopping? Let's take a look:

Advertise on Smartphones and Social Networks
Smartphones and social networks will play prime roles in back-to-school shopping this year. 64% of consumers with web-enabled smartphones will use the devices for back-to-school shopping; and 61% will use their mobile devices to find the best prices for school products. 43% of consumers will use their smartphones to download discounts, coupons and sales information; 37% to locate a retail store; 29% to receive product information; and 25% to access a retailer's web site.

Price-conscious and time-constrained consumers are navigating virtual storefronts to get the information they want quickly and easily. In turn, retailers need to respond with an integrated experience; they'll need to unite the store with their online and mobile channels to enable consumers to easily access product availability, promotions and general information.

Use Coupons and Discounts
In a survey of 2,612 online shoppers conducted in May, PriceGrabber found that back-to-school budgets have decreased since 2010, as 48% of shoppers plan to spend $250 or more, compared with 56% last year. 25% of consumers say they plan to spend $500 or more, when 31% said the same in 2010.

The modest but meaningful decrease in back-to-school shopping budgets this year demonstrates the lasting impact the recession is having on consumers' mindsets. As consumers adjust to the new economic reality, they become smarter about their purchases over time. They'll take their time looking for discounts and worthwhile coupons.

Know What Consumers Are Looking For
Similar to last year, clothing and basic school supplies stand at the top of online shoppers' lists in 2011, as 79% of consumers indicated that they will shop for general school supplies such as notebooks, binders and pencils.

Clothing and general supplies are followed by laptops and electronics, with 18% of consumers planning to purchase a new laptop for a student, and 11% planning to buy a new phone or smartphone.

When it comes to older students, retailers should pull out all the stops to catch student's attention. The college years are an important time for young adults to express their individuality. Colored laptops, stylish cell phones and distinctive dorm furniture will appeal to today's students and should be big sellers in retail stores across the country.

Don't Forget about Traditional Advertising
As we say at Conversation, the best advertising mixes the new and the old. While social and mobile advertising is certainly effective, TV commercial ads will successfully promote products as well. Behind spend on Super Bowl commercials and December Holiday shopping, back-to-school commercial spend is the third highest, so it's definitely worthwhile to put some focus and budget towards it.

Don't Sit Back and Wait; Start Now
Everybody's trying to get an edge. The back to school shopping season traditionally runs from mid-July to early September, and it peaked earlier last year (August 7 to 14). This year seems sure to follow that trend, so if you haven't started yet, start today!

Keep these tips in mind and have fun with it -- it's one of the few times a year when marketers have all the attention on them!

Tags: retail, teens
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1 comment about "What Works With Back-To-School Ads ".
  1. Byron Wolt from Speak to Students , August 24, 2011 at 11:10 a.m.

    What an excellent article! Back to school is indeed BIG!

    I am curious if you have any information about which back to school commercials register the best with students AND their parents financial backers?It is often quite challenging to catch the attention of both students and their buying committee (parents).

    Also, do you find companies that establish and maintain a connection with schools such as Target's give back to schools credit card options or Best Buy's @15 school/teen outreach programs have an inside track in gaining the back to school spending? I am wondering this because students are in school all year and while the back to school numbers are massive, the influence of students on their parent daily spending is also quit large and not just seasonal.

    Thanks