Back-to-school is the retail industry’s second biggest shopping season of the year, with total spending for K-12 and college estimated to reach more than $82.8 billion in 2018, according to the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics. While school is heading back into session as early as next week for some parts of the country, many parents are waiting for last-minute deals and school lists to stock up on needed items. Seventy-seven percent of shoppers plan to start at least three weeks before school begins, but 89 percent still have half or more of their purchases left to complete. That means as a retail marketer, you still have time to create compelling campaigns that reach parents and other caregivers in time for the first school bell of the year. Here are some additional highlights from the NRF survey and tips to get you started.
Department store and online shopping are neck and neck
The top destinations for consumers shopping for back-to-school items are department stores (57 percent), online retailers (55 percent) and discount stores (52 percent). Back-to-college consumers prioritize online retailers (49 percent) over department stores (40 percent), with discount stores coming in third (35 percent). What’s more, many shoppers will compare products and prices, check for coupons and use the retailer’s app while in store. Activate your mobile creative to incentivize purchases in-store with discounts and special offers and push last-minute, lower-funnel users with free shipping and in-store pickup. You also need to be able to tie your online efforts to in-store traffic using closed-loop attribution technology.
Students are using social recommendations
“One trend that we continue to see during the back-to-school season is the strong influence children have on their parents’ spending decisions,” Prosper Insights Executive Vice President of Strategy Phil Rist said. “This shouldn’t come as a surprise when social media tools such as Pinterest and Instagram have allowed Gen Zers to be more selective in the items they want. However, the payback for being picky is that parents now expect their kids to contribute toward their back-to-school lists.” This means that if you have traditionally targeted parents and grandparents with back-to-school ads, paid social ads focused at high school and college-aged students can help influence purchase. Focus on real observed data for your targeting in audience segments, lookalike models and contextual targeting to increase your audience pool early on.
Promote the right products
Parents of school-aged children are no longer buying up electronics like tablets or laptops for back-to-school because these items are now a part of daily family life. While shoppers for college students plan to spend on electronics more than other items, back-to-school shoppers plan to spend the most on clothing ($236.90). Craft a good creative strategy around dynamic creative connected to the audience data that you use for targeting to ensure you are matching the right product to the right user.
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