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7 tips to rule Back-to-School

From a consumer's perspective, talking about Back-to-School (BTS) shopping before the kids are even out of school for the summer may seem a bit early. From an advertiser's perspective, however, knowing that many consumers start their BTS shopping mid-summer, it makes perfect sense.

Part of being successful with PPC advertising involves researching your audience and leveraging those insights to build campaigns that have the right combination of ad copy and keywords to drive a great return on investment. Given that BTS is the second-largest retail season -- worth $74.9 billion[1] -- any advertiser hoping to boost sales during it should start planning their campaigns now so that they'll be ready to go when consumers are ready to buy.  

This year will bring big changes in shopping behavior, with more use of mobile  for searching and spending, as well as some emerging trends.[2] Expect online shopping to continue to grow; last year, 45 percent of back-to-college buys and 38 percent of K-12 items sold online.[3] Online influences in-store shopping, as well. The majority of shoppers have researched online before heading out.[4]

Here's what you need to know to rate with back-to-school shoppers:

1. Electronics rule

As classrooms go digital, laptops and tablets are the major items accounting for the increased spending. The average shopper will spend $364 on electronics of all kinds, compared to $249 for clothing, the second-largest expenditure category.

2. Mom: Chief Mobile Officer

Busy, multitasking mothers are apt to rely on mobile devices to get stuff done no matter where they are – including handling back-to-school shopping. Almost half of all moms use mobile devices to look for coupons. Beyond that, their mobile behavior is different when they're at home, where they're more apt to compare prices, browse for items online and research items on store websites. Once they hit the mall, they're more likely to check their loyalty points or scan online reviews.[5]

Almost all mothers (89 percent) say that coupons and deals are important factors in back-to-school purchase decisions.[6] You'll get high marks from mobile moms when you add Sitelink ad extensions that send them straight to your coupons or offer pages.

3. Move to mobile

Moms are not the only ones relying more on mobile. Mobile commerce overall grew 42 percent in 2014, while last August, 4 out of 10 visits to top retail sites were mobile,[7] with 22 percent of back-to-college shoppers buying right from their phones.[8]

Mobile shoppers are really different: they spend half the time on websites than those using a PC do. Smartphone users are most likely to compare prices and redeem coupons[9]. To capture mobile dollars, don't forget those Sitelink ad extensions to quickly get shoppers to the right spot. TIP: Be sure to put your most important content in the middle of the screen for maximum engagement with mobile users.

4. Mix and match

Retailers that want to get an A for effort will let shoppers buy online and pick up or return items in the store. Extra credit goes to those who offer free shipping for Back-to-School.[10]   

5. Kids are flaunting it

Do you know about "haul" videos? Video bloggers love to show off purchases in these home-made videos – and haul videos strongly influence other kids. A full 80 percent of college students say that product review sites, blogs and video blogs influence back-to-school buys,[11] while 40 percent of those who watch haul videos will go to the stores that were mentioned in them.[12]

6. Need to know

Everyone's getting even more techie, as evidenced by some emerging search terms on the Yahoo Bing Network. The top searches for tech trends include note-taking apps and tools like Microsoft OneNote, followed by wearables devices, and text-to-speech tools.[13]

bing ads back to school

7. Time it right

The Back-to-School frenzy really heats up three weeks to a month before school starts, but 23 percent are early birds, hitting it more than two months before the first school bell rings.

Back-to-School searches on the Yahoo Bing Network begin to peak in mid-July, but click-through rates for the top search terms peak in different weeks from the beginning of June through the end of September. On mobile, click-through rates generally peak in mid-June.[14] Take advantage of high click-through rate weeks for your category this Back-to-School season.

 bing ads back to school

Interested in learning more? We've got even more data on search and shopping behavior in our Back-to-School presentation:

For more seasonal and vertical insights check out the Bing Ads Industry Insights Portal.


[1] Source: National Retail Federation 2014 Back-to-School Survey.

[2] Monthly Consumer Survey, National Retail Federation, July 2014.

[3] Natl Retail Federation op. cit.

[4] Source: Deloitte. 2014 Back-to-School Survey Rising to the Head of the Class.

[5] Punchtab Survey. Back-To-School Shopping & Decision-Making Moms, July 2014.

[6] Punchtab op. cit.

[7] Experian, Back-to-School Trends Marketers Must Know, August 2014.

[8] School and College Trends, August 2014

[9] Punchtab Survey. Back-To-School Shopping & Decision-Making Moms, July 2014.

[10] Source: Deloitte. 2014 Back-to-School Survey Rising to the Head of the Class.

[11] Fluent, Level of influence of select sources on back-to-school purchasing decisions, August 2014.

[12] eMarketer, “Haul Videos Haul in Back-to-School Shoppers,” September 2014.

[13] Microsoft internal query data on Owned & Operated, PC, Tablets. Data range: 5/31/2014 to 10/3/2014

[14] Ibid.