Mobile Triggers Early Searches For Back-to-School Sales

Consumers got an early start shopping for back-to-school stuff this year looking for bargains like free shipping. In fact, 94% of shoppers in a Google survey admit that a promotion or sale would persuade them to purchase a product.

Searches for sales began trending two weeks earlier compared with 2012, according to a Google study released Wednesday, which attributes the trend to mobile devices and the ability to research products on search engine and Web sites from anywhere.

A little more than a third of online shoppers will use their smartphones as an on-the-go tool. Of these, 66% will use their smartphone to locate a retailer nearby, 64% will compare prices, and 43% will search for store item availability. The study estimates that college students will spend nearly $614 on average -- double the amount for high school students at $347, and elementary school students at $298 per student.

About 75% said they will purchase clothing or apparel; 72%, classroom supplies; 44%, books or magazines; and 41%, electronics.

The move by consumers to research products early and the ability for marketers to target those searches point to success through analytics, number-crunching and ability to analyze audience segments. On YouTube, back-to-school shopping searches have doubled this year compared with last year.

Videos that appear as television ads and on YouTube have become the tool of choice for many brands. Some 73% of shoppers who are watching online videos for back-to-school shopping look for product reviews, according to Google. In a 2012 study, four in 10 shoppers visited a store online or in-person as a result of watching an apparel video.

Searches trending on Google and YouTube not only identify particular back-to-school hot items and trends like school makeup tutorials, they strengthen the ability of brands and retailers to more closely connect with consumers, using videos that show what a consumer purchased, why they bought it, and why the viewer should buy it -- of which 205,000 have been posted by the site in the past week.

Kmart, for example, kicked off a merchandising strategy that connects with kids through language, and parents through perks like layaway, online reserves, and pay-in-store programs. These days, public schools expect parents not only to  purchase pens and paper for their kids, but donate reams for the entire class.

In the latest Kmart ad running on television and YouTube, kids banter "Yo Mama" on the playground. One says "Your Mama has so much game, she couldn't even store it on that tablet," while another says "Your mother is so fiscally responsible. she got all that on free layaway."

"Women shopping" photo from Shutterstock.

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