It’s barely the end of June and it’s time to head back to school? This is either madness – or extremely savvy marketing planning. The back-to-school shopping season is the second-highest spending period in the year, behind the winter holidays. In 2014 shoppers spent $74.9 billion on back-to-school.1 That’s the annual GDP for the country of Costa Rica! And shoppers in the U.S. spend this in one three-month period.
Since when do crayons, superhero lunchboxes and jeans cost so much?
Sixty-five percent of the spend is actually back-to-college.1 What are college students buying for school? Technology, clothing and technology. The average college student will spend more than $900 on back-to-school supplies – and the main reason they increased their budget over last year is because of needing more expensive items like laptops and tablets.1
But it’s only June! Do I really need to start planning my marketing for back-to-school already?
Two stunning facts to consider (and then you can go back to tossing a frisbee in the sun if you want):
- Most shoppers (two-thirds) begin shopping for back-to-school at least three weeks before school starts.2
- School start dates across the U.S. vary by as much as two months.
Which means that as of June, there are back-to-school shoppers on the hunt already.
Should I go with skywriting to catch my customers on the beach?
You could try that – but we recommend the more sensible and reliable method of paid search marketing. The groovy thing about paid search marketing (using Bing Ads or Google Adwords to show up when customers search for the things you offer) is that people will see it anywhere they are, since 57% of back-to-college shoppers will use their mobile phone to shop3 and more than 60% of moms will use smartphones – mainly to look for coupons.4 This means it’s important to have your paid search campaigns customized and opted in for mobile users.
What do I need to know about paid search marketing for back-to-school?
My marketing colleagues at Bing Ads have created some helpful materials that will get you started. In the meantime, focus on these key things:
1. Start your search campaigns early.
Get your ads up in late June and early July to capture shoppers who plan ahead.
2. Budget appropriately.
Make sure you’re bidding highest during search activity spikes, particularly after the 4th of July weekend.
3. Use product ads.
These are the ads that show a picture of the product you’re selling. This makes it easy for shoppers to see what you’ve got – and to click to your site.
4. Add your phone number.
Call Extensions for paid search ads make this easy – and even easier for your mobile users, who are likely looking for your number anyway.
5. Be easy to find.
Most mobile searches are local searches – your customers are looking for you, which means they want to come and give you their money. Use Location Extensions in your ads.
6. Offer deals.
Shoppers love deals – from free shipping to buy-one-get-one to free returns. Make it easy for them to love you.
So if I get my ads on Google I’m covered?
Almost. Google Adwords is a smart and necessary place to show up – but so is Bing Ads. ComScore recently announced that Bing has reached 20% of the search market share. When you fold in the audience that the Yahoo/Bing partnership yields, the search market share rises to 33%. That’s one in three searches in the U.S. The little engine that could is…the little engine that is. And apparently many searchers on Bing do not use Google – so if you’re only advertising on Google, you’re missing a lot of people. See how many below.
Number of exclusive searchers on Bing by vertical
Audience data represents Bing Web and Yahoo US Web Search from comScore qSearch (custom), US, March 2015. Industry categories based on comScore classifications.
I always did like the crisp air and spiced pumpkin lattes of fall.
That’s the spirit! With some thoughtful planning now, you’ll be ready to capture all the back-to-school shoppers you can handle.
1. National Retail Federation 2014 Back-to-School Study
2. National Retail Federation, Monthly Consumer Survey, July 2014
3. National Retail Federation, Infographic: Top 2014 back-to-school and college trends, August 2014
4. Punchtab survey, Back-To-School Shopping & Decision-Making Moms, July 2014
Tablet Image via Shutterstock
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