More pencils, more books—and more teacher’s dirty looks

Despite the heat wave and drought that’s gripped the majority of the country, retailers have marked down summer-related goods to make room for pens, pencils and backpacks—indicating that it’s time to start the school year and kick-start back-to-school shopping.

Today’s back-to-school shoppers are highly connected and empowered customers. Online searches, including the term “back-to-school,” increased 75% for the week ending July 28, 2012, versus the same time period in 2011. Additionally, searches are up 13% total for the month over July 2011, indicating that people are preparing for the fall.

Doing your homework

While the majority of marketers start their back-to-school campaigns in July—with 27% starting in May, no doubt looking to catch the early-bird shoppers and get a gold star)—marketers report that back-to-school-related email volume and revenue peak at 42% in the first half of August.

Email campaigns with offers in the subject line have a 21% higher transaction rate than those without, further indicating that recipients and shoppers are looking to find a deal and get the most out of their back-to-school dollar. It’s important to integrate campaign efforts to help ensure you’re reaching the right customer with the right message at the right time while also empowering meaningful connections.

(Click to enlarge the infographic at left)

So, who is doing the back-to-school searching? For the most part, searchers tend to be females between the ages of 25 and 44. Ages 18 to 24 do 15% of the searching; ages 25 to 34 do 37%; ages 35 to 44 represent 25%; and ages 55 and up account for only 6%.

But what exactly are people searching for? Back-to-school search terms include “back-to-school outfits,” “back-to-school clothes,” “back-to-school fashion,” “back-to-school deals,” and “back-to-school coupons.”

While the majority of searching and shopping takes place in July and August, it’s important for marketers to note that 35% of moms admit to giving in to requests for nonessentials during the second half of September. This is a great opportunity for marketers to give one last back-to-school push.

Going away to school?

The majority of variations for “dorm” searches are focused on decorating ideas and how to spruce up those cinder-block walls so popular in university housing. Of the 20 search terms containing “dorm” and related words, nine focused on “decorating, “ideas” and “stuff,” indicating we may need to work on expanding vocabulary among our nation’s college students.

Of the 20 search terms containing “laptop” or “computer” and “college,” or “student,” 11 included inquiries for “best” and “top,” highlighting that content around the best laptops and computers for college students will resonate with consumers seeking advice and will help capture the search activity. Additionally, four search terms focused on “cheap,” “discount,” “deals,” and “offers,” reinforcing the importance of promotions, while three included “free.”

With the back-to-school shopping season well under way, marketers who put their customers at the center of their marketing efforts will encourage customer-centric campaigns and provide solutions for their customers’ needs, earning an A+ for this year’s back-to-school efforts.

Heather Dougherty is the director of research at Experian Marketing Services’ Hitwise.

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