Back-To-School Tips and Trends

Despite being out of school for longer than I care to admit, there remains that nightmare where I have to take a final in a class I never attended and didn't do the reading for. Marketers who don’t begin their back-to-school campaigns soon are going to be feeling that way come September.

Would you believe "Back- to-School" is the second largest consumers pending event for retailers, trailing only the winter holidays?  According to NRF’s 2012 Back-to-School spending survey conducted by BIGinsight, the average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $688.62, up from $603.63 last year. Total spending is expected to reach $30.3 billion and combined K-12 and college spending will reach $83.8 billion (watch out, Festivus).  This spending covers just about every type of consumer business:  from office supplies to clothing to dental and medical professionals.  Very few of your clients will not benefit from a back-to-school push.



Increasingly, marketers are receiving extra credit for beginning their homework early. According to  Experian, during last year's back-to-school season, 41% of all mailings were sent in July, and specific offers were present in subject lines on 37% of emails (e.g. “Just in Time for School, 30% Off Bags!”). These offers generated 57% of total email revenue, so sharpen your pencils!


Here's a cheat for you: if your products are targeted to a specific age or grade, include that indicator, along with the year 2013, to the keyword or e-mail subject line to certify your products as fresh for this season. No kids want to show up on the first day with outdated duds, and neither do marketers. Heather Dougherty, Experian Director of Research Consumer Insights, says, "The trend last year suggests consumers receive an overwhelming number of irrelevant results. Appending keywords with ‘2012’ was new year-over-year in this category, with ‘2012 as the 5th highest ranked term in back-to-school.”

Another note to add to your marketing trapper keeper (the one with Larry Page on it and lots of star and unicorn stickers):  Targeting your product to a specific age or grade and including that indicator as part of the keyword will get you A+ results.  Segment-type keywords, like 8th, 5th, middle, and elementary, saw sizable year-over-year spikes in popularity last year, especially in search.

As we all know, school shopping is mostly not about books. Searches for "fashion" saw a 469% increase in popularity last year. Teen Vogue may have contributed to this spike with the first-ever Back-To-School Sunday, which featured fashion shows, celebrities and sales throughout the U.S. 

The Experian study noted a continued interest in teen apparel after the school year begins. Teen and apparel accessories received the greatest number of visits in August, but compared to other BTS topics, visits remained high throughout the academic year. Some post-August traffic may be attributed to teens returning to school, seeing what's "cool," and researching for the next must-have piece. Comparatively, a category like "school supplies" is just a rote list which, once fulfilled, stays fulfilled.  This represents an enormous opportunity for the savvy apparel marketer after the competition has been dismissed.

In and out of school, shoppers are still hunting for deals. Searches including the word "cheap" grew 417% year-over-year, and local and mobile advertisers should mark their calendars: some states provide tax free shopping weekends in August to help parents save money.

BTS shopping deals continue to graduate from inserts or flyers to digital devices. The majority of today's parents are active social media users, with nearly 64% accessing social networks at least once a day using a smartphone.  When you devote resources to the intersection of digital and brick-and-mortar, make sure to coordinate channels and messaging with an emphasis on ease-of-purchase using a mobile device. The idea is to target the parent and the child and when all is aligned, you’ll set the curve. 

Using this study guide, there’s no need to have that final exam nightmare anymore.  Unfortunately, I can't help with the one where you come to work without your pants.

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