Back-to-school season is upon us. This means that consumers and brands are gearing up for the second biggest shopping season of the year (behind the winter holidays), according to Deloitte.

The U.S.-based National Retail Federation reported that shoppers spend more during this season than they do on Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day — combined. The projected spend in 2018 was $82.8 billion, with over half of shoppers purchasing online.

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This is why it’s crucial that brands and publishers carefully plan their digital back-to-school marketing strategies and find opportunities to reach their target audiences.

To help, we studied a range of education content and pulled insights from Taboola Trends—including when to post, which keywords to use, and how to format your images.

We make these choices by looking at where marketers have the highest opportunity—which we define as the intersection between supply and demand. When there is low supply, but high demand, there exists an opportunity.

We define supply as the percentage of spend currently allocated across our network, and demand as click-through-rate (CTR).

Here’s your ultimate guide to launching back-to-school marketing campaigns:

Opportunity #1: Reach shoppers on desktops

It’s no secret that mobile shopping is on the rise. Forrester projected that smartphones would be used in over a third of U.S. retail sales in 2018. Taboola Trends also reflects this mobile mania—mobile accounts for the highest marketing spend and click-through rates (CTR) among education content.

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Yet, there’s also an untapped opportunity to reach back-to-school shoppers on desktops. Here, demand isn’t yet met by supply.

Readers are eager to click on desktop content, but marketers put the majority of their budgets into mobile campaigns.

Opportunity #2: Launch campaigns from 7-10 AM

Education content drives the highest CTR around 9:00 AM, perhaps because readers are on their way to work or school.

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Still, there is a larger window of opportunity between 7:00 and 10:00 AM when CTR is climbing. Even though this window exists, marketers spend more between 12:00 and 2:00 PM, when CTR is dropping. Consider shifting that spend from afternoon to morning campaigns.

Opportunity #3: Create video content

Marketers spend far more on text-based content than they do on photo and video content. That’s understandable given that CTR is high on text-based content, such as articles and blog posts.

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According to our insights, however, video drives a similarly high CTR to text-based content. So, why aren’t marketers spending more on video to meet that demand? If they’re looking to drive more engagement this back-to-school season, brands and publishers should consider trying video campaigns.

Opportunity #4: Start campaigns in February and March

Brands and publishers already start their back-to-school marketing early, with April seeing the highest spend—and CTR—for education content.

Still, we found that there’s an opportunity to reach back-to-school audiences even earlier in February and March, when that CTR starts to rise.

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As James Green wrote for Marketing Land:

“We need to redefine what the BTS [back to school] season is … marketers who shift their focus to a year-round, data-driven strategy will be able to capture BTS sales that occur outside the typical month or two before the school.”

In fact, Deloitte found that U.S. parents who start back-to-school shopping earlier than July spend more than parents who shop in August and September.

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Back-to-school marketing opportunity #5: Use color images with no text

If you’re creating images for article or video thumbnails, consider these image trends to increase your engagement:

  • Images in color have a 54% higher CTR than those in black and white
  • Images indoors have a 36% higher CTR than those outdoors
  • Photos have a 35% higher CTR than illustrations
  • Images with no text have a 27% higher CTR than those with text
  • Images with food have a 20% higher CTR than those without food
  • Images with no people have a 16% higher CTR than those with people

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That’s not to say that you need to combine all of these elements into one image. But if you’ve been using outdoor photos and seeing a low CTR, for example, consider switching to indoor photos and seeing how your audience responds.

Back-to-school marketing opportunity #6: Include keywords like ‘request,’ ‘part-time,’ and ‘majors’

The text in your articles and video and image captions also plays a crucial role in who engages with your campaigns. That’s why we analyzed keyword trends among education content.

Here’s what we found for the top five keywords that drive engagement and the top five keywords that could lower your CTR due to saturation:

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Additionally, we found opportunities for using certain keywords that have potential for high CTR and low competition:

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For example, here’s how you might incorporate these images and keyword trends across the stages of your marketing funnel:

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Back-to-school marketing success stories

Building back-to-school campaigns needn’t be overwhelming. Many companies can lead the way with successful content marketing efforts and native advertising campaigns.

Online language learning platform Babbel wanted to use content marketing to reach readers and turn them into customers. It used Taboola’s content discovery platform to recommend its articles on leading publisher sites. As a result, Babbel saw a 22% increase in leads, driving 100,000 new leads in a month.

University of the People — the first non-profit, tuition-free, accredited online university — wanted to increase brand awareness amongst its target audience of students looking for higher education alternatives. The university tapped Taboola to distribute its news coverage and program pages across our publisher network. Its campaign drove over 56 million impressions and 57,000 clicks in just one month. Taboola was 58% more efficient in lead generation than Google.

To build your own back-to-school marketing success stories, try A/B testing campaigns with the strategies outlined above and check out Taboola Trends for more real-time insights.

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