What Back-To-School Trends Tell Us About Holiday Shopping

Search terms should reflect what consumers want and how they think about a brand. Social channels help the brand gauge how sentiment changes with each search.

These days, more online shoppers report that they are searching and purchasing products up to two months before school starts -- 30.9% online vs. 23.9% for all -- providing insight into the holiday shopping season just around the corner.

While findings from a PM Digital report focus on back-to-school, the trends make the December holiday shopping season cycles pretty obvious. The report suggests that search engine optimization strategies should begin three to four weeks prior to gain a ranking that targets back-to-school buyers, and it appears that the same timeline should apply to holiday shoppers as well.

For back-to-school online shopping, searches among PM Digital clients for general terms like "back to school" peaked each year for the past three during the three weeks in August, and 2013 volume to date so far continues to track slightly ahead of last year. Promotional terms like "back to school sales" also continue to grow, but queries with a clear link such as "school supplies" create more traction.

Paid-search ads with the word "sale" tend to create more searches and clicks compared with those that have the word "coupon."

Searches for tablets typically peak above those for computers and laptops during the holidays, but the two are much closer during the back-to-school season. The electronics categories continue to outpace searches compared with other traditional back-to-school categories like backpacks, uniforms, shoes and clothing, and other school supplies. Interestingly, computers and laptops are lagging this year compared with 2012. Backpacks typically account for more search queries than others in the category.

Tablet searches rose in July as the back-to-school 2013 season began, suggests a newfound popularity at this time of year and a break with recent historical patterns, according to the report.

"Online Shopping" photo from Shutterstock.

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