Commentary

Back-To-School Search Ads Must Lead Online Consumers To Local Stores

The majority of back-to-school shopping dollars still find their way into stores rather than online, but search marketers need have time to focus mobile and desktop search budgets toward college shoppers and others who are delaying purchases until the last minute.

College students and their families have completed about 49.1% of their shopping lists compared with 53.7% this time last year. Some 24% of those planning to shop for college necessities have been busy enjoying the summer days and have not yet begun their shopping -- down from 26.2% last year, according to the National Retail Federation's Back-to-College Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics found

College shoppers are turning to coupons, sales or promotions to get the best price. The survey found that 48.1% of what parents have purchased has been influenced by early summer deals and promotions, on par with 2014 numbers, but higher than the 44.4% in 2013.

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Colleges and universities today typically require students to have their own computer. The survey this year found that 49% of the electronic items college students and their parents have already purchased was influenced by their class or school requirements, down from 56% last year.

It's not too late to for search marketers to expand their strategies. Overall, 19.5% of consumers this year admit they have not yet started their shopping, compared with 23.6% last year. It is clear that most shoppers sending their kids back to school or headed back to school themselves still have a lot left on their lists, per the NRF.

The NRF's Back-to-School Spending Survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, suggest the average family with children in grades K-12 has completed 50.4% of their shopping, about on par with the 49.9% reported in 2014.

A NRF study published in July, which analyzes shopping patterns, suggests that 35.6% of those looking for school items will shop online. Of those planning to shop online, 48.4% said they will take advantage of retailers' buy online, pick up in store or ship to store options; and 17.3% will look for expedited shipping offers. Some 92.1% said they would take advantage of free shipping offers.

The study lacks data about online coupons through search ads and mobile ads. The NRF said in-store ads, coupons and promotions continue are major influencers for families shopping back to school. Parents said traditional media has the most impact -- with coupons at 43.4%, in-store promotions at 35.3%, and advertising inserts at 31% influencing them the most to shop at a particular store. Word of mouth at 21.5%, and television ads at19.4% also make a difference.

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