Don’t be tardy! Back-to-school searching starts in July — plan campaigns now




  • It’s not too early to start planning your back-to-school campaigns. Columnist Purna Virji from Bing suggests some ways to help you win over back-to-school searchers and stay a step ahead of the competition.






    I know what you’re thinking. School is just winding down, and you want me to start planning back-to-school campaigns already?


    Yup. And here’s why: Back-to-school shopping and searching shift into high gear in July. And if you’re not ready, you’ll miss out on the second-biggest shopping holiday of the year.


    The second biggest — who’d have thought that, right? Back-to-school spending is second only to the December holiday season.


    Research shows that families with K-12 kids spend an average of $674 on the hottest sneakers, fashion trends, electronics, calculators and binders — and even more money for college-bound students.



    In fact, according to the National Retail Federation, in 2016 back-to-school spending hit $75.8 billion. (Can I hear a collective “ouch” from all the parents out there?)


    Which means for digital marketers, planning needs to start now. Below you’ll find two assignments (plus helpful insights) designed to help you move to the head of the class this back-to-school season.


    Assignment #1: Find out who’s buying and plan your bid modifiers


    Increased traffic means you need an increased budget. And to maximize those budget dollars, you first need to know exactly who you’re targeting and then build meaningful campaigns.


    According to research done by my colleagues at Bing, 32 percent of back-to-school shoppers are aged 35 to 49, and 31 percent are 50 to 64, with the primary customer being female and a mom.


    But don’t forget — although mom may be footing the bill, her K-12 kids are dropping not-so-subtle hints about what they want.


    On the other hand, college freshmen outfitting their dorms are relying on Mom and Dad to guide their decisions. It’s critical that you segment your audiences with demographic targeting, keeping in mind key influencers.


    This means that you’ll need to create a separate set of ads to attract each of these different segments. Thankfully, with demo-based bid modifiers offered by search engines, you can make your ads feel more personalized.


    In addition, make sure you’re segmenting by geography as well, so you can optimize not just based on season and local trends but also based on peak periods for each location.


    As always, don’t forget to look at last year’s performance data, to help you optimize this year’s campaigns.


    Extra credit: Be there for teachers


    Teachers are unsung heroes who invest heavily in the next generation — often with their own hard-earned money. Thanks to increasingly tight school budgets, most teachers spend an average of $500 on their classroom, and some teachers report spending $1,000 or more.


    Consider donating classroom items or a percentage of your sales to local schools or even offering a buy-one-give-one promotion. Calling out these promotions in your ad campaigns will encourage customers to shop with you, trust your brand, and feel good about their purchases.


    And you can feel good about helping teachers.


    Assignment #2: Determine what they’re searching for


    Of course, for campaign success, you need to know what your shoppers are looking for. And the answers are all in the data.


    Take time to examine trends related to your products and uncover the top-searched terms, as well as the days and times folks are looking.


    For example, thanks to Bing data, we know that the most popular back-to-school search category is apparel (shoes and clothing), at 58.5 percent, and click-through rates are high in July and August.


    So, for these months, consider optimizing your shopping campaigns with enhancements such as merchant promotions, sale pricing and review extensions, as well as highlighting local inventory.


    Oh, and by the way…


    Sometimes back-to-school shoppers are searching for what we don’t really expect, such as bed and bath products. Searchers on Bing (as compared to Google searchers) are 16 percent more likely to have spent between $200 to $499 on bed and bath products in the last six months. Optimizing for these products could yield some sweet-smelling profits.


    Technology is also a big back-to-school category, and we know that these shoppers do plenty of online research before committing.


    Running ads for searches higher in the purchase funnel can be very effective in these cases. For example, an ad for a tablet early in the shopping season may use unbranded search terms and include more detailed ad copy as well as review extensions. But an ad for that same tablet later in the season may have less detail but would also include branded search terms.


    Speaking of brand, how does brand vs. non-brand factor in?


    Below I’ve highlighted a few search stats and tips from Bing that indicate clear trends in some key back-to-school categories.


    Clothes



    • 72 percent of searches were for unbranded terms.

    • Top unbranded searched terms: t-shirts, shirts for teen girls, and cute plus-size outfits

    Tip: Including an ad showing the product in use or multiple colors of the item can help the image grab attention.


    Laptops & tablets



    • 76 percent of searches were for unbranded terms.

    • Top unbranded searched terms: best deals tablets, tablets and best tablet deal

    Tip: Influence shoppers with customer reviews using a review extension, and if your product is on sale, be sure to use the sales price column in your product feed.


    School supplies



    • 81 percent of searches were for unbranded terms.

    • Top unbranded searched terms: calculator, scientific calculator, portfolio

    Tip: Consider offering a coupon and try a broad match modifier for unbranded terms.


    Furniture, décor, and bed & bath



    • 88 percent of searches were for unbranded terms.

    • Top unbranded searched terms: furniture, furniture stores, mattress stores, memory foam mattress

    Tip: Personalize what shows in your ad with dynamic text parameters. Showing the product in use, e.g., a rug shown on the floor of a room, can be especially helpful for this category as it provides context to the shopper.


    Boost your popularity: Discover where your audience is hanging out


    Did you know that back-to-school shoppers plan to purchase from only an average of three websites? Finding out where your customers are spending time online (and where they’ll make their purchases) is critical to getting your campaigns in front of them.


    You can also maximize your marketing ROI by syncing your ad investments with other campaigns. Now that you have your assignments, it’s time to kick campaign planning into high gear, so you can edge out your back-to-school competitors.


     


    [Article on Search Engine Land.]



    Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.









     


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