This is the second post in our Back to School with Bazaarvoice series.

Back-to-school is big business for retailers. How big? It’s the second most-popular shopping window of the year, behind the holidays, and for the past two years, shopper spend has increased by 10% or more. If that trend holds for 2017, back-to-school spend will surpass $80 billion.

Smart advertisers are poised to take advantage of this important shopping surge by leveraging actionable insights to fuel their campaign strategy. To inform strategy for the upcoming 2017 season, we analyzed Bazaarvoice Network data from last year’s back-to-school season to uncover trends and shopper behavior. Over the summer months, we’re outlining our tips to help marketers ace this back-to-school season.

Lesson #2: Understand your audience and their back-to-school shopping needs

In Lesson #1, we explained that back-to-school is not a fixed shopping season; rather, shopping waxes and wanes between June and September, depending on when back-to-school shoppers are in market for certain types of products. The actual shoppers themselves also have incredible variety. Is your customer a teacher who needs to stock up on supplies for their classroom? Are they a parent to a child headed back to school? Is their child entering kindergarten or senior year of high school? What about a college student who is looking for the perfect back-to-school wardrobe? Back-to-school is a widening market, with spend increasing year over year and spanning multiple buyer targets like parents of children in grades K-12, parents of college students, college students themselves, and teachers. The lifestage of shoppers greatly impacts what they’re buying and how much they’re spending during the back-to-school shopping season. Advertisers: identify your target audience and then learn all you can about their buying needs and preferences to inform your summertime advertising strategy.

Teachers & School Administrators

It is estimated that teachers spend upwards of $500 or more during back-to-school season. With school districts facing tightening budgets, it often falls on individual teachers to stock their classroom with necessities like cleaning supplies, paper goods, and arts and crafts. Plus, kids are not the only ones updating their wardrobes at the start of the school year. Teachers and administrators, too, are in the market for updated professional clothing, new footwear, and accessories like bags for carrying lunches and school papers.

K-12 Parents (and Some Students)

Families with children in grades K-12 plan to spend an average of $673.57 gearing up for school, up from last year’s $630.36. This audience is interested in a wide array of school items — predominantly supplies and clothing but also electronics. New phones and phone accessories like cases and headphones are becoming increasingly important to this technology-obsessed generation. As we mentioned in the earlier lesson, apparel shopping does not begin in earnest until September and then again when school is already in session. This is because students like to wait to see what other students are wearing before committing to their clothes. While kids are into clothing and accessories, parents are focused on checking everything off on the school supplies lists that many schools send out.

College Students & Their Parents

College students (and their parents) are the biggest spenders of the bunch, spending on average $888.71 for their back-to-school purchases. College students spend the most because they need the most. They need to be buy the right supplies, dress to impress, and outfit their dorm rooms. Often times, their supplies include higher priced electronics like laptops, televisions, printers, and new phones. College shoppers can be easier to distinguish amongst the larger shopping set if advertisers can leverage the right identifying data. For example, if you can pinpoint which back-to-school shoppers are looking for twin XL sheets, shower caddies, textbooks, and storage containers, you can target them with effective advertising for other college necessities. Since college shoppers tend to control more of their own budget, it is in advertisers’ best interest to figure out how best to reach this desirable audience.

Homework for advertisers: Know your back-to-school shoppers

No matter who you are targeting, back-to-school shoppers are spending a lot of money in the summer months, and as consumer spend increases, so do the opportunities for smart advertisers to connect with and capture shoppers. Are you targeting moms buying lunch boxes or art teachers buying paintbrushes? Identify your target shoppers, study up on their purchase needs for school, and target them with timely advertisements for the products they’re looking to buy. In-market shoppers are leaving a trail of strong intent signals across devices and across the web. Advertisers willing to hit the books and study these data points can use them to inform their strategy and capitalize on the shopping season.

For more lessons on back-to-school shopping season, download our infographic and keep up with the rest of our Back to School with Bazaarvoice blog series over the summer months. 

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