All the Data You Need to Run the Perfect Back-To-School Digital Marketing Campaign

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It’s back-to-school season, and relevant retail marketers everywhere are jumping to attention to fill the months before the next school year with effective digital campaigns.

Defining the back-to-school season has become incredibly complex. Students come in all shapes and sizes, they attend school year round in some cases, and they all have different needs, which marketers need to take into account.

back to school digital marketing (1)Last year, eMarketer released data that revealed that the number one way internet users planned to use social media when back-to-school shopping was to view promotions and ads—marketers capitalizing on this trend should be everywhere their consumers are, and this includes both social media and the open web.

We pulled insights from the Taboola platform based on an analysis of school related content, using 8,954,048,075 impressions and 6,111,089 clicks.

This post is your ultimate guide to digital back-to-school campaigns based on data that covers activity trends by time of year, day of week, hour of day, information on how your competitors are tracking their campaigns and how to build the build the best creative for the open web.

Campaign Planning

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Summertime is still your best bet for top performing back-to-school marketing campaigns.

Our definition of the school year has changed as online education has become more mainstream, students of all ages are attending school to further their education, and as all levels from elementary school through college, have incorporated flexibility into their attendance options.

The more we evolve, the more the back-to-school ‘season’ becomes a year long event. Last year, columnist James Green of Marketing Dive, explained this phenomenon for marketers.

“The BTS “season” is still relevant, but to focus on the short time frame before the start of school and ignore the entire school year is short-sighted. […] The data behind these students tells an important story. Marketers who leverage that data and develop marketing strategies around it will surely reap millions of uncaptured retail sales.

I believe we need to redefine what the BTS season is and learn how to market most effectively to these consumers to capitalize on the millions of retail dollars at stake.”

Green is right, there are millions of retail dollars at stake, and based on internet activity we’ve seen on the open web, education consumers are interested in content throughout the year.

We analyzed both demand for education content, indicated by the click-through-rate (CTR)—the green line below, and the competition marketers face for their education-related campaigns, indicated by the amount marketers were spending on education campaigns, the blue line.

Globally, although education focused marketers are spending the most at the beginning of the year, between January and April, the time of year with the highest opportunity, (high demand and low competition) in 2017 was the summer months.

We recommend that marketers ramp up their for their back-to-school campaigns during the summertime to meet consumer interest.

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Mondays at 7AM have highest demand for education content, globally.

Demand for educational content is highest on Mondays, but the consumer interest on Tuesdays and Fridays is nothing to gawk at.

Strong interest during the traditional work week and school week might be expected, and in addition, we’re also the most interested in back-to-school content at 7:00 AM.

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Campaign Creation

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Build the best creative to effectively send your campaign’s message.

The perfect mix of copy and media that will result in your best performing campaign might seem, quite often, like a mystery. It requires a lot of A/B testing on your behalf, as your audience is as unique as your brand, and it requires an understanding of what is working on the web right now.

Taboola Trends is a tool we’ve built to help you do both. When it comes to building the best creative for your back-to-school campaign, consider focusing on your product’s monetary value:

Based on data from May 27th to June 2nd, these words have the highest CTR in the education category:

  • Free
  • Grants
  • Back
  • Day
  • Today
  • {Region or Location Name}

When you’re picking your photos, you want to keep these tips in mind:

  • In the United States in general, colorful images are doing better (36% increase in CTR) than black and white images, though, with school related content, we’re seeing the opposite trend, with black and white images getting higher CTR (28% increase).
  • In the US in general, people are clicking more on photos of women (23% increase in CTR), though, for school related content, we’re seeing a more even preference (only 9%).
  • Although chalkboards and textbooks are a big part of back-to-school marketing campaigns, globally,  we’re seeing a 39% increase in CTR for images that don’t include text.

You don’t just have to take our word for it. The following stories illustrate how educational companies can shine with creative campaigns on the web.

This is how education companies TalentEdge and Blinkist found success on the open web.

TalentEdge and Blinkist have very different education goals—the first provides online courses for students, and the latter provides unique educational content for users to consume.

Both found success with the combination of content marketing and effective creatives to help distribute that content, leading to massive sales.

After launching their Taboola campaigns, Talentedge sees 10% to 15% of registrations for each course from the open web. Their success was due to a combination of creative campaign adjustments and audience testing on Taboola.

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For Blinkist, communicating their unique offering was a challenge. Campaigns took off when they were able to find new audiences and track app downloads natively.

Blinkist received over 60,000 app downloads in just 6 months. Check out the story:

With building your campaign creatives comes tracking your back-to-school campaign—alongside A/B testing, attribution and conversions, you should also be aware of how the competition views their own success.

Campaign Tracking

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It’s no secret that marketers are interested in leads and sales—In the US alone, eMarketer expects a 4% rise in retail back-to-school sales, an improvement from last year’s 2.6% increase. Consistent with previous years, the back-to-school season is predicted to account for more than one-sixth (17%) of full-year retail sales.

On the open web, the majority of back-to-school marketers are tracking lead generation and pageviews for their native campaigns.

Education products span the gamut of long-funnel products to short funnel products—for example, from possibly buying courses online to buying their next school backpack. Depending on your product, we suggest tracking different KPIs.

For products where the consumer travels through a longer funnel, we suggest upper funnel KPIs, like pageviews or leads, to gather insights where you can retarget or reach that audience later. For products where the consumer travels through a shorter funnel, tracking lower funnel KPIs, like purchases, can be effective.

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What’s interesting is that marketers’ second major goal on the open web is pageviews—this could be attributed to the rise of video on the open web, and the expansion of brands into using the open web more and more for branding campaigns versus performance campaigns.

We started this dive into back-to-school marketing by speaking about the obvious: the world is always changing, and that means education is as well. Marketers’ ability to keep up with these changes and adapt is what will make or break their back-to-school campaigns.

It’s very possible—and both financially and creatively rewarding—to understand the data that affects education consumers. For more data on consumer behavior, check out our blog.