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5 Tips to Rule Online Advertising This Back-to-School Season

  |  July 31, 2013   |  Comments

Since online growth has now surpassed in-store retail growth, online advertising is more critical than ever for back-to-school marketing.

Back-to-school has never been so critical for marketers as it is now. The back-to-school season hit an all-time high in 2012 of $30.3 billion in spending on grades K- 12 in the U.S. This is according to a recent trends report released by Google on the 2012 season.

Last year, both online and in-store sales were up year-over-year. This increase from 2011 is relevant because online growth surpassed in-store retail growth. Online spending was up over 15 percent compared to 4 percent in stores.

As online marketers, this is amazing data because we have the opportunity to maximize our efforts for the biggest shopping season, second only to that of the winter holidays.

Last year, the majority of consumer spending was focused on clothing and accessories (36 percent) and computers and electronics (31 percent). While discount stores topped the list for anticipated purchase channels, there is still hope for a wide variety of other retailers, particularly if you're online. Here's why.

Two major trends are colliding right now. One is the multi-device purchase path where consumers are likely to start their purchase on a smartphone, then shift over to one or more devices such as a tablet, then check out via desktop. The second is the prevalence of technology in the classroom where traditional school supplies like notebooks and pencils are being replaced by tablets and laptops.

Technology has also made it easy for shoppers to do research. Consumers are researching online, comparing prices, and looking for sales before buying.

Since consumers are researching online, it's important to be there when they are searching; not only for core products, but using that search intent to cross-sell and upsell other products in-store and online.

If you are an online advertiser in PPC ads or display, there are opportunities to capture customers. Try these five tips:

  1. If you haven't tried remarketing, this is a great time. Since shoppers are researching and comparing prices, reaching them with display ads after visiting your site to remind them of your offering is a great way to close the sale and drive conversions.
  2. Advertisers offering specials and discounts will be at an advantage since consumers are looking for sales before buying. Don't forget that "free shipping" is a discount too, and free trials and samples can also sweeten the deal.
  3. Time is limited. Back-to-school starts in July and lasts only a few months, so plan to budget accordingly during this timeframe. Even if you missed the start, better late than never!
  4. Technology is key with 31 percent of spending expected to go to computers and electronics. Advertisers can leverage similar or complementary products with creative copy and positioning. The potential to position unlikely products for back-to-school is unlimited.
  5. Shoppers will be using multiple devices to buy online. Take advantage of any and all mobile and tablet targeting. Special bid adjustments or creative targeted to mobile will help to emphasize placements in search results with display ads on-site.

In the past, companies that provided traditional school supplies were clear-cut winners during this season, but times have changed. How have you planned to leverage the back-to-school season with your online marketing?

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Lisa Raehsler

Lisa Raehsler is the founder and principal strategist at Big Click Co., an online advertising company and Google AdWords Certified Partner, specializing in strategy and management of SEM and PPC for search engines, display, retargeting, and social media ad campaigns. Lisa has led strategy on dozens of PPC accounts and puts her experience into practice every day as a thought leader in integrating clients' search campaigns with ecommerce websites, behavioral targeting strategies, and web analytics. She has participated extensively in the local interactive community, as well as at national search engine marketing conferences. Lisa's recent speaking engagements include SES, OMS, MIMA, HeroConf, and SMX conferences, as well as numerous private and public training engagements. As a columnist for ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, she writes on the topic of paid search. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRocksSEM.

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