Back to School Planning for Digital Marketers

back to school marketing

Back to School is the second biggest consumer spending event of the year, right behind the winter holidays. While last year experienced a dip, things are expecting to bounce back. Is your business ready for it?

Hopefully you’ve already planned your company’s marketing strategy for back to school seeing as the spike in search has already started, but if not, there’s still some time. With almost 80 million students enrolling in high school or college this season in the US, according to Google’s latest ‘Back to School’ study, there is plenty of opportunity to capture.

Parents’ Journey to Purchase

As with any campaign, it’s especially important to keep the user’s path to purchase in mind. This means visibility and consistent messaging accross all devices. While users may not be converting on smartphones, they sure are using them to research. Capture your potential client on their mobile before they’ve made their decision, whether it’s on the road or while they watch a video on YouTube.

Some tactics you can deploy on AdWords would be:

  • Display phone number and relevant store locations to users searching on mobile devices (or computers!) to drive in-store sales. Increase bid modifiers around your store locations for maximum reach.

  • Generate awareness via Affinity audiences and Interest targeting on the Google Display Network. These features allow you to more precisely target the audience that is most likely to buy from your brand. For example “Bargain Hunters” or “Value Shoppers” are examples of Affinity audiences and “Shopping” or “Apparel” are good labels to use for interest targeting.

  • Remarket! Whether they’ve engaged with your website or watched a video of yours on YouTube, it would be unwise to not attempt to reach back out to potential clients.

Get Ahead of the Game

Since we’re a little late for this one, consider it an early tip for the 2015 season. Last year, 20% of shoppers began purchasing in mid-July. Each year, search interest grows around “back to school” keywords, and more specifically “back to school sales [year]”. Another early tip would be to make sure you’re ready for “back to school sales 2015” based on that data.

 Highest Spending Days

Plan around the highest spending in-store and ecomm days, maybe even more so if you’re strapped for budget. Typically, offline sales occur during the weekend while online sales are up early/mid-week throughout July and September. Considering this when bidding could help ensure you get the best ROI.

Complement Offline Marketing

Consider complementing your offline marketing with online campaigns. If you’re running a specific ad in a region or DMA, also have an online campaign counterpart, especially for mobile devices. If I’m reading a magazine or I see a billboard that interests me, I’m likely to pull out my phone to research. Hell, I may even do some research on my phone while I’m in the actual store itself. Note that this also aligns with our suggestion to think about the user’s journey to purchase. Getting in front of your audience at all times could be an easy way to increase sales and conversion rates, online and offline.

What are some tips and tricks you’ve tested in the past that helped create a successful back-to-school campaign?



Francis Shovlin has been in the search industry since 2007, most of that time has been spent at Seer Interactive located in Philadelphia and San Diego, where he helps companies achieve their business goals. You can follow his unpredictable thoughts on life, music, beer and PPC on Twitter: @fmshovlin

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