Back-To-School Searches Continue After Teachers Ring The Bell

Staples gave the "easy button" an IoT makeover with help from IBM Watson. The button, originally intended as a metaphor for quick delivery of office and school supplies, has moved into the next generation.

As with Amazon Dash, those looking for supplies can now push the button and tell it what is needed. Courtney McKlveen, head of U.S. field sales at Verizon's new Oath division, which integrates Yahoo and AOL, shared some trends around back-to-school purchases.

She said the buying cycle continues to lengthen as consumers search for the best prices, so many are waiting until school begins to make purchases. For many of those purchases, about 60% of shoppers use their phones for back-to-school shopping, per Oath data, also included a phone.

In fact, International Data Corporation (IDC) expects shipments to reach just over 1.7 billion by 2021, up from nearly 1.5 billion in 2016.



Tablets, e-readers and laptop searches and purchases continue to rise. At one time it was pencils and pens. McKlveen said the higher-ticket items are pushing out purchase cycles, which means search marketers can run ads a little longer into the season. Consumers are starting earlier -- about six months prior to going back to school with the peak around August -- because many are searching longer to find the perfect price.

About two-thirds or people make their purchases after school begins, per Oath data. About 40% spend time on a PC shopping and 15% on a mobile device.

With all this searching online, marketers should not overlook the in-store experience by tying in search advertising that leads consumers into stores. While in Staples Wednesday to pick up printer paper, I saw huge lines, mostly moms with their kids and baskets filled with notebooks, pens, smartphones, and Sour Patch Kids.

McKlveen spoke about how those back-to-school purchases happen and the timing that leads up to back to school. The overall activity in the marketplace has been strong, but the real question is whether the shift in consumer items will change search marketing as with the larger basket-size items such as laptops and mobile phones. 

Experian also used its social media analysis to look at parents with elementary school children ages 5 to 10, and college-bound students ages 17 to 19. The analysis found that marketers looking to find parents of elementary school children on social media want to make sure their posts serve on social media, Sunday through Thursday between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. local time.

These parents are more likely to follow brands in the snack foods category such as Lance Snacks, GoGo squeeZ, Welch’s Fruit Snacks. They also follow household brands like Brentwood Home,,, as well a personal care stores such as OneDorHair, Violife,, according to Experian data.

Marketers will find parents of teenagers ages 17 to 19 on social media mostly on Sunday between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., as well as Tuesday between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. And since these parents spend less time on social media, Experian suggests an omnichannel strategy to target these consumers.


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