Back To School Marketing – Be Top of the Class!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009 | 11:32 AM


©vashistha pathak

With September around the corner millions of parents are welcoming the start of a new school year for their kids by shopping for new clothes, shoes, and backpacks filled with shiny new school supplies. Retailers keen to capture this surge in traffic are launching back-to-school campaigns left and right. However with a season that has multiple different targets from the influencers such as kids and teens, to the decision makers such as Mums & college students, it is important for retailers to ask themselves: what is the right media mix for me?

With the back-to-school shopping season spanning almost 3 full months from July to September and with no specific dates and deadlines for shipping cutoffs, back-to-school is a period of time with no explicit end date and huge opportunity for retailers. Research has shown that 54% of back-to-school shoppers will research online before purchasing in-store [1] with 42% or more purchasing these back-to-school items online, [2] it is no surprise that 72% will spend the same amount or more online as in stores for back-to-school purchases. [3] It is therefore a very good idea to ensure that your online marketing efforts are backed up with offline campaigns such as audio, print and TV in order to ensure that you are reaching the right audiences in all of the most relevant locations that you can.

Mothers are the primary back-to-school purchasers and will interact with a lot of different media touch points throughout the day from reading the morning paper, to listening to the radio as they drop the kids off at school to browsing their favorite online websites. Google online properties reach about 81% of women ages 25 to 44, making the Google Content Network an evaluable part of your marketing mix. With the current economic climate good deals are now even more important. Using your content campaigns to influence Mums by including special back-to-school offers & discounts in your ad text will cater your advertising to the more cost-conscious parents. Similarly using call to action phrases such as ‘buy online’, or ‘buy now’ and highlighting your extensive range and fast delivery times will further endear your campaigns to these back-to-school shoppers.

It is worth noting however that while mothers and parents may be the primary back-to-school purchasers, it is kids and tweens who will influence at least half of all back-to-school purchases. From backpacks to footwear parents will often let their children choose which specific items to purchase making the highly influential tween market a big priority for online retailers. The Google Content Network allows marketers to capture this audience while they are online playing games, researching projects or interacting with social networking websites. It also captures this valuable market through one of the most highly effective mediums for this demographic, their mobile phones. With mobile phones being the preferred medium of communication among school age children, teens and tweens they are highly relevant to back-to-school campaigns. Mobile campaigns are an evaluable way for marketers to capture kids and tweens while they are on the go, in school, looking for information or simply communicating with parents via text, this makes mobile a highly important part of any multichannel back-to-school marketing campaign.

Not to be forgotten back-to-college students are savvy online shoppers who make their own purchasing decisions with 80% going online prior to making any purchase [4] and 51% being coupon clippers who are very likely to use online coupons accessed online [5]. Content campaigns will capture these students as they browse online placing your ads on social networking sites, online music and book stores and many more, building strong awareness of your search campaign among this target audience. Offline efforts such as TV, radio and discount coupons in college newspapers, can prove equally effective in targeting this cost conscious demographic.

It is clear overall however that when times are tight, online marketing becomes even more useful and careful targeting of high potential audiences with a smart media mix can reap ample rewards for back-to-school retailers. With the back-to-school season now in full swing, it is time for retailers to step up to the mark and strike while the iron is hot.

[1] October 2008 OTX/Google Holiday Shopping Intentions Study
[2] Back-to-School Survey July 24 2008-August 7, 2008
[3] Source: Back-to-School Survey July 24 2008-August 7, 2008
[4] October 2008 OTX/Google Holiday Shopping Intentions Study
[5] Platform-A and IRI study cited in ‘Young Cupon Clippers Looking Online’, Research Brief, 10/04/09