Back to School Study 2013

PM Digital’s 2013 Back to School Study highlights the biggest trends the retail industry can expect to see during this year’s back to school rush. Second to the holidays, back-to-school shopping marks the most significant season of the year for retailers across the board. While there won’t necessarily be any drastic change in best-selling products – backpacks, jeans, sneakers, laptops- the ways in which families and students purchase these products will see a seismic shift primarily due to mobile devices and stringent budgets. A recent NRF study highlighted American families’ reluctance to spend excessively on back to school items and 37% of families are determined to rack up lower budgets than they did one year ago. Yet despite this weariness, most still intend to partake in the annual end-of-summer shopping ritual. In fact,prior to the start of the season, the NRF estimated that consumers would spend $72.5 billion collectively on back to school products, although this number falls short of 2012’s staggering results, 2013 is still projected to significantly outpace 2011. While their numbers are still speculative of course, this foresight can significantly impact brand preparation for this seasonal rush. With these expectations in mind it is now even more crucial for retail brands to employ an effective digital strategy across natural, paid search and display campaigns so as not to miss out on any potential customer opportunities.

In addition to online and offline retail projections, the study offers key tactics to implement as you optimize your brand’s paid search and natural search campaigns to cater to back to school shoppers’ needs. Some key tactics to integrate within your brand’s digital strategy include:


  • Include your Brand’s Back to School Products in Top-Level Site Navigation – This top-level placement will not only will this help visitors quickly find relevant products, and thereby improve site conversion, it will also increase the relevancy of organic sitelinks in search results linking directly to this content, and subsequently driving more prospects in the first place.
  •  Enhance and Expand Your Presence on Google’s Product Listing Ads–  PLAs are more important than ever as they are now appearing in the top paid positions historically reserved for text ads. Optimizing your product feeds to accommodate this surge in Product Listing Ads’ market share will guarantee your brand’s visibility as back to school shoppers search for school supplies and apparel.
  •  Double-Check Your Links –Ensure that sure paid site links connect customers directly to relevant product such as backpacks as well as to deals, sales or promotions.  As create a dedicated Back to School site link for category pages.
  •  Consider Responsive Design for Mobile Devices– As more shoppers turn to mobile phones and tablets to research and purchase products, it is crucial that mobile sites are as aesthetic and intuitive as desktop sites. Responsive design promises a consistent brand site experience across all devices and ensures that your back to school content will translate despite the smaller screens on mobile devices. For on-the-go shoppers, responsive design makes on and offline shopping seamless as customers transfer devices throughout their shopping processes.
  •  Take Advantage of Local Tax Holidays– Thanks to the increased reliance on mobile usage, this year’s back to school shoppers will be extra mindful of special savings days and industry efforts, like Back to School Saturday. Promoting these deals across your brand’s digital strategy will further engage potential buyers.

For more on 2013 back to school findings and tactics, please download the Back to School Study available on

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