Back-to-school shopping starts as early as June, with consumers mainly looking for clothing, home furnishings and school supplies.


Frances Donegan-Ryan, Bing Ads Global Community Engagement, Microsoft

Heads up: Back to school is the second biggest shopping “holiday” of the year. And believe it or not, it starts in late June.

That’s right. While kids are swapping books for summer fun, digital marketers need to be thinking about campaign planning and optimization. Parents will start their back-to-school spending surge earlier than you think, and that spending hit a massive $75.8 billion last year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Below, I’ve outlined some tips and insights to help ensure you’re poised to convert and capture back-to-school dollars this summer.

Back to school shoppers purchase from an average of just three sites.

Don’t procrastinate


First and foremost: don’t wait. Plan now. You want to be sure your ad campaigns are ready for customers searching for your products.

Do some snooping to find out what your shoppers are searching for. For example, if you look at this useful data compiled by Bing, you’ll see that when it comes to back-to-school staples, clothes and shoes are the top-searched product category at 58.5%, followed by furnishings and décor at 27%, and school supplies at 14.5%.

Look at when shoppers are most active. From our Bing data, we know that click-through rates pick up in July and August (while cost-per-click is lower). This means that July and August are great for search ads. We also know that while laptops and tablets are popular back-to-school items, shoppers spend more time doing research before committing. Our data shows that searches for PC, tablet, and mobile devices jump near the end of August and peak the week ending October 1.

Remember what happened with last season’s campaigns? Even if you think you do, take time to delve into the details to determine what worked and what didn’t. Examine your demographic targeting and segment by age and gender—and consider placing bid adjustments to increase the chances that your ad is displayed more prominently for customers meeting your targeting criteria. It’s critical that you carve out enough budget to accommodate traffic increases. Get your campaigns ready early, so you don’t miss out!


Do your homework on ROI

Arm yourself with data, so you can invest marketing dollars where it counts most. Find out how your target audience is searching. Are they more likely to use Bing over Google? Set up your campaigns and budgets accordingly—and be sure to synch your investments with other advertising campaigns where it makes sense.

Also, keep in mind average order value (AOV) when building your campaigns and evaluating search engines. Create campaigns that encourage shoppers to not only buy your product but to hang out and shop some more. This is especially important since traditionally, back to school shoppers purchase from an average of just three sites. Be sure to respond to higher AOV with increased bids to maximize clicks and capture additional conversions.

Don’t forget about remarketing. According to SaleCycle, the cart abandonment rate among North American brands is 74%. Lure these high-quality shoppers back to your site by using remarketing in paid search. And be sure to use bid modifiers to increase keyword bids for shopping cart abandoners.


Finally, your efforts are valuable—especially during summer when you could be golfing. Lounging by the pool. Camping! Or mowing the lawn again. Save yourself time (and potential headaches) by using automation technologies. For example, with Bing, you can schedule and automate daily or weekly campaign management tasks. You can also bulk edit campaigns as needed.

Get smart with keywords

For a truly effective campaign, it’s imperative that you find out exactly what your target audience is searching for. Look at branded vs unbranded to determine the top-searched terms in both categories. According to Bing data, when it comes to clothing, 72% of searched terms are unbranded, with top searches including: low-priced clothing, fast fashion, and youth and kids’ brands. On the other hand, when it comes to cellphones and plans, 52% of searches are branded.

Be sure to use long-tail brand terms. And when you bid on branded terms, bid on your competitors’ terms as well (sneaky, right?). Finally, don’t forget about your ad extensions. Extensions can increase the visibility of your ad in search results as well as the number of clicks.