Back to School 2014 Trends: How Search Marketers Can Get Ready Now [Study]

School may have just got out for some, but that doesn’t mean search marketers can take a break. The back-to-school marketing season is in full swing according to data coming from PM Digital’s fourth annual “Back To School Trend Report”.

Approximately 48 percent start shopping online in preparation for school three to four weeks prior to the first day of school, and about 31 percent do so two months prior. With much of the U.S. going back to school in late August or early September, that puts retailers into prime search opportunity starting in July.


Even though consumers may not always be receptive to back-to-school marketing so “early” in the summer, PM Digital suggests exploring messaging that aligns with that mindset, like L.L. Bean’s back-to-school promotion from last July:


When it comes to what people are searching for when prepping for school each year, the report cited “back to school” terms ruled, “school supplies” were second, and “school shopping” and “back to school sales” were about tied next.


Another term that’s been gaining search interest year-over-year is “back to school sales [year]”. The report cited that these searches consistently peak the first week in August.


Search interest in the term “school supplies” also peaks the first week in August, the report said.

Tablets and computers represent the most popular back-to-school products, PM Digital reported, and far outweigh searches for other products like backpacks.

To capture its audience at the right time, Apple launched back-to-school promotion earlier in the summer – before July 4, according to the report, with incentives to buy:


Good news for online retailers: K-12 and college shoppers spent more online for back-to-school shopping than they did offline, according to the report.

K-12 families spent an average of $896.90, which was 41 percent higher than offline shoppers. For college shoppers, the average per family was $1,121.69 – that’s 34 percent higher than offline shoppers.

When it comes to dorm shopping, dorm furnishing like bedding, refrigerators and decor show early back-to-school shopping interest, starting in the spring of the previous academic year. The peak for searches in dorm furnishing is historically in mid-July, the report showed.


Looking ahead, PM Digital cited the following trends for the school season:

  • Product Listing Ads will continue to gain popularity and drive shopping performance.
  • Pinterest and Instagram will be a place for retailers to explore back-to-school advertising.

And gave the following ideas in preparation for the retail event:

  • Get ready now, especially if your target market is back-to-college shoppers.
  • Be prepared for the mobile shopper.
  • Create a “Cyber Monday”-type kickoff event for back-to-school shopping.

For more information, including search trends, top websites and retail products for back to school, and tips and ideas on how to prepare, check out the full report here.

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