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illustrations of back to school items including an apple, a book, pencil and more

5 Tips for Planning Back to School Campaigns in 2022

With summer just around the corner, it’s the perfect time for digital marketers to start planning their back to school campaigns for 2022. In the US, the back to school market was worth 32.5 billion USD in 2021. It’s a large market that spans across different product verticals, from clothing and accessories to tech products. 

By prepping your back to school advertising now, you can do the legwork to make sure your campaigns reach the right audience as they begin to think about back to school shopping. Read on to learn how to leverage data for your back to school campaign planning, as well as strategies and tactics for reaching back to school shoppers this fall. 

Look to Data for Back to School Ads in Your Campaign Planning 

A great starting point for planning seasonal shopping campaigns, like back to school, is by looking at historical data to uncover patterns. Reviewing your prior back to school ad campaigns can give you insights into education marketing trends and what products or services to focus your new campaign around.

Looking at data from the two years of the pandemic, 2020 and 2021, can be particularly useful when planning your 2022 ad campaigns. It’s also a good idea for advertisers to stay on top of current trends in education marketing.  

bar graph illustrating estimated back to school market spend in the US in 2021, by product category
Source: Statista 

For example, historical data shows that the pandemic spurred a shift toward online learning and digital adoption in education. While in-classroom learning is now bouncing back, the shift to digital has led to changes in back to school consumer behaviour that is likely to stick around.

Stay-at-home orders that were put in place during 2020 influenced a historic rise in screen time for students and teachers. Students’ screen time was more than 4 hours per day, while averaging an extra 1.5 hours daily of recreational screen time. 

As a result, electronic products have become more of a focus on back to school shopping lists for students and teachers. In fact, 40% of parents now expect to buy fewer traditional school supplies as technology has become more prevalent in class. 

Build a Profile Around Your Target Audience 

It might seem simple: back to school shoppers are parents, teachers, and students. But the reality is that these shoppers can span across various demographics, so understanding who they are in detail will benefit your campaigns. 

Customer profiles describe everything you need to know about a specified group of customers. You can leverage that information to create a digital strategy that aligns with the wants and needs of your audience. A customer profile will help you make informed decisions about campaign messaging, creative, and channels and targeting tactics to use. 

Here are the basic steps to take to build customer profiles for back to school ad campaigns:

  • Identify your broad audience. Focus on the problem your product, service, or business aims to solve and who needs that problem solved. For back to school retailers, it’s pretty simple: their broad audience includes parents, teachers, and students. 

  • Narrow down that audience. This isn’t always straightforward, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. For example, if you’re a retailer selling laptops, you are likely targeting students—but the age of those students will skew older. 

  • Consider your customers’ journey. Understand how a customer goes from awareness and consideration to conversion and evaluation enables you to narrow your audience further. Knowing every touch point that a customer passes through before making a purchase will help inform what channels and ad formats you should leverage for the best results.

  • Create a profile description. You now have a more narrowed idea of your audience and their customer journey, so it’s time to consider their demographics in detail, such as age, income level, family size, occupation, education level, and marital status.

Consider Emerging Formats for Your Back to School Marketing

The education model isn’t the only thing that’s evolved during the pandemic. There’s also been shifts in consumer habits which have influenced consumer adoption of new channels. To capture the attention of parents and students, it’s important to know where they are spending their time, and then be sure to be present on those channels. 

There’s been growth in adoption and use of different platforms and channels in the last year, like TikTok and over-the-top (OTT) advertising. TikTok was the most downloaded app of 2021, with 656 million downloads. And, over-the-top (OTT) advertising, live video, and audio podcasts have all seen a surge, continuing to capture an ever-growing percentage of the average consumer’s media diet. What’s probably most important to know is that most people today are present on various channels and devices. 

Students, parents and teachers might scroll social platforms first thing in the morning. Then a teacher might listen to a podcast on their commute to school. During the day, students and parents might browse online, and in the evening, they could watch streamed video.

It’s important to understand which channels are emerging and how they’re being used, as those insights can be leveraged to your benefit when running back to school marketing campaigns. Creating a multi-channel strategy enables you to reach parents, teachers, and students throughout the entire funnel, creating a cohesive story across channels like native, display, video, connected TV (CTV), and audio.

Use Targeting to Reach the Right Audience

Once you know who your target audience is and the best channels to reach them on, it’s time to consider how you’ll reach them. There are a few targeting methods for back to school marketing campaigns that will drive optimized results. Here are 4 targeting strategies and how they’ll benefit back to school campaigns:

  • Use geotargeting to reach consumers based on location. Geotargeting delivers back to school ads to an audience using the geographic location information of the recipient. Some demand-side platforms (DSPs) offer targeting by country, state, province, county, city, or zip code, postal code. In the US, it’s possible to upload a list of zip codes that capture school locations, or you can target specific addresses or lat and long coordinates with geo radius targeting. 
  • Leverage contextual advertising to reach consumers based on their life stage. School is a major milestone in most people’s lives–for students and parents alike. You can leverage contextual targeting to place back to school ads on pages that align with the content your target audience engages with. For example, a parent is likely to read articles that cover how to prepare their child for the first day of school. With contextual advertising, you can place ads for your back to school clothing, accessories, or tech products on those pages. That way, your ads reach your target audience in a receptive frame of mind.
  • Expand your 1st-party reach and use CRM data. First-party audiences built off of site visits and site conversions are ideal for building lookalike audiences. A lookalike audience helps you reach potential customers who are likely to share similar interests and behaviours with your existing customers. You can also leverage 1st-party data to build out retargeting campaigns that capture visitors who have shown interest in your brand and product previously. 
  • Dynamically retarget individuals with personalized native or display ads. Retargeting campaigns are a key tactic in programmatic targeting because they enable you to remind users about product offerings that they’ve browsed before. Dynamic retargeting differs from standard retargeting where generic ads are served to users who have visited your site. Standard retargeting ads will remind a user of your brand message, but a dynamic retargeting ad takes it further by reminding a user of an exact item they were looking at.

Plan A+ Back to School Advertising Campaigns

Statista data shows that the average planned back to school spending budget per household in the US has gradually increased year-over-year to reach $848.9 USD dollars in 2021. This is a notable increase of over $350 USD dollars since the beginning of the survey period in 2004, and it signals a steady increase of spending in this seasonal retail category. 

With education shifting to a digital-first model and consumers increasing their time spent on digital channels, running your back to school campaigns on programmatic is a perfect opportunity to tap into this growing market. 

Interested in running back to school campaigns? Reach out to your StackAdapt Representative to get started.

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