Marketers, start early to make the most of back-to-school

08/20 By John Bonanno

Kids are dreading it. Parents are counting down the days. It’s back-to-school season, and soon classrooms will be filling up as students ready to start a new school year. While back-to-school shopping might not be as big for brands’ bottom lines as the holidays, US e-commerce is still predicted to generate $85.55 billion in sales. And where money goes, the advertising dollars will follow.  

According to a recent survey, parents who start back-to-school shopping earlier in the summer tend to spend more, on average, than parents who wait. In fact, parents shop in July or earlier spend $544 on average, a full $90 more than parents who wait until after July!  

However, it looks like marketers may be missing out on the opportunity to advertise to these early shopping – high spend parents. Given our unique position in the industry–with the ability to see more impressions than any other verification provider–IAS was able to explore back-to-school impression volumes for both 2017 and 2018.  

In 2017, impression volume peaked around mid-August, where parents spend around $384.  And 2018 looks to be following a similar trend, with impressions beginning to hit relative highs.  However, given spending trends, retailers may want to consider shifting some of their budget to earlier in the season to capture some of the earlier, and higher, shopping dollars.

IAS analysis also supports a new rule of thumb that Amazon Prime Day is becoming the unofficial start to back-to-school season. In 2017, impression volumes barely shifted in response to Prime day on July 10th.  But in 2018, there were clear volume spikes in advance of the July 16th Prime Day.      

While kids are soon to be back in the classroom, advertisers don’t have to wait until next year to apply the lessons learned from this back-to-school season, other major “retail holidays” such as Black Friday and Holiday shopping are just around the corner.  Based on these observed trends, advertisers should make sure their strategy accounts for the spenders who tend to shop earlier in the season.

Enjoy back-to-school season, and make sure you’re ready for a pop quiz by reviewing our insights for major retail holidays like Black Friday and Exchange Week