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Optimize Your Back to School (BTS) Programmatic Media Buying with A+ Shopping Data from Digilant

08/03/2017 - Karen Moked

Changes in the BTS media consumption market demands a more strategic approach to buying advertising using data

  • Digilant has analyzed the behavior of Back to School (BTS) consumers: when, where and how they shop?
  • 40% of parents start shopping in July, while 60% wait until August. 23% of BTS shoppers wait until later in the shopping season to get better deals.
  • BTS purchasing has more room to digitize, with the majority of parents still shopping for at least some products in stores, while 46% of consumers shop exclusively online.
  • Computers and handheld electronic devices are more often bought in advance, while clothing is more likely to be left for a last minute shopping trip or after class is already in session.

Boston – August 3rd, 2017. Today, Digilant is releasing the first in a series of Data Research infographics that Unlocks shopping behavior Data for Back to School (BTS) consumers.  For many companies and brands that make or sell products for students (publishing houses, school supply businesses, clothing brands, computer software companies, etc.), the Back to School (BTS) season is one of the most important retail periods of the year. It’s estimated that the aggregate U.S. sales of all BTS-related verticals throughout the 2017 season will reach $83 billion dollars. This figure accounts for students entering Kindergarten through high school, as well as the more than 20 million students enrolled in college for the upcoming semester.

Digilant, a global provider of programmatic ad buying solutions and services, has pulled together relevant data for advertisers and media buyers about BTS shoppers’ consumer behavior. “We’ve analyzed the behavior of Back to School consumers and are leveraging the data insights to help brands effectively market to these audiences,” explains Adam Cahill, President, Digilant US. “We’re talking about an increasingly competitive marketplace with scarce margins. By giving our clients access to information to understand and define customer behavior they can improve campaign performance and maximize ROI.”

When Do They Buy?

In 2016 alone, Back to School Shoppers spent $75.8 billion dollars, an 11% increase from 2015. If retailers continue to perform at a similar rate this year, buying will surpass $83 billion dollars.

40% of parents start buying in July, while 60% wait until August. Of those August buyers, 20% wait right up until classes start to take advantage of greater discounts. In fact, 23% of Back to School consumers believe that they’ll find better deals by waiting until later into the shopping season.
Analyzing a number of different buying windows, Digilant found that 50.9% of shoppers do their buying three weeks before the first day of school; 22.2% shop two months in advance, 22.1% shop between three weeks to a month after classes have begun; and only 2.1% shop during the first week of classes.
Compared to more frugal parents and students, consumers that start shopping earlier end up spending more on BTS-related products.
These savings are also dependent on the type of product being purchased, given that computers and handheld electronic devices are bought ahead, while clothing is more likely to be left for a last minute shopping trip or after class is already in session. See the infographic here.

Where Do They Buy?

Despite the growth of eCommerce in recent years, there is still  room for marketers’ BTS digital audiences to continue growing. 42% of BTS consumers feel that they need several days to gather everything on their lists, because they’re visiting a number of different stores in order to fill their “shopping cart.” Most parents continue to go to physical stores, while 46% shop online.
Based on survey data from 2016’s BTS retail season, consumers shopped at:

  • Discount Stores (60.5%)
  • Department Stores (59.6%)
  • Clothing Stores (51%)
  • Online Stores (46%)
  • Office Supply Stores (38.5%)
  • Electronics Stores (38.5%)
  • Drug Stores (16.6%)
  • Local/Small Businesses (16.5%)
  • Thrift/Resale Shops (11.7%)
  • Catalogs (6.2%)

These trends are expected to be very similar in 2017, with savvier consumers more inclined to shop with brands that have effective and personalized online buying experiences. Also an opportunity for digital marketers, luring in shoppers with creative advertising campaigns over their preferred media consumption channels. See the infographic here.

How Do They Consume Media?

Although many purchases are not made in July, consumers do begin to prepare in advance: 30% of the Internet searches for “Back to School” are concentrated in the month of July.
60% of the searches related to “Back to School” were made from mobile devices in 2016, 30% more than the previous year. Eight out of ten moms used their smartphones:

  • 25% Used social media to inform purchase decisions
  • 74% Looked for online promotions
  • 61% Researched online before buying in-store

81% of students ages 5 to 22 used their smartphone to compare prices in the lead-up to classes, with significant variance based on age within this demographic.

The more specific segment of millennial moms (approximately 21 to 35 years of age) are particularly inclined to showrooming, with 75.2% using their phones while shopping, to look for better prices in other stores or online.

Where Are They Best Reached?

The four most effective forms of digital advertising for brands that want to reach the BTS consumer are social media promotions, online ads, TV ads, and YouTube ads, in this order.

When it comes to the students themselves, many heavily rely on these ads, especially fashion-forward teens who rely on social influencers on YouTube and other platforms to pick up on fashion trends.

In 2016, about 75% of parents with school-aged children made purchases based on offers and that they received in their mailboxes, or were given to them on the street, etc. 43% bought their products based on television ads. 39% were seduced by advertising on retail websites; 33% were sold on offers they received via email and only 8% received promotions through their mobile phones.

88% of parents who have school-aged children use coupons to cut BTS costs, which 67% of consumers find on desktop computers and 42% on smartphones.

The audience that brands should give most focus to remains the students’ parents, given that they’re making the final purchase decision 76% of the time. However, a student’s participation during the discovery and evaluation phases play a much larger factor in swaying these decisions than in years past. For college students it depends on the age of the students but they are the ones who make the buying decisions in 88% of the cases.
Changes in the BTS media consumption market demand a new approach to buying advertising.  Digilant is here to help by unlocking data for more effective media buying and uncover new customers. Download the full Back to School infographic on Digilant’s website here.

Digilant collected the data for this infographic through the analysis of both its own first party data as well as reports and studies from: Advertising Age, BazaarVoice, Deloitte, Digilant, eMarketer, Mintel and the NRF.

About Digilant
Digilant offers programmatic buying solutions and services designed for independent agencies and brands that are increasing their programmatic spending. Using data science to unlock ‘new’ automated buying strategies, Digilant enables brands to uncover proprietary and complex audience data that gives them the actionable intelligence they need to compete across every important media channel.
Headquartered in Boston, Digilant has offices in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, and across the globe in Barcelona, Bogota, Lima, London, Madrid, Mexico City, Monterrey, and Santiago. For more information please visit or follow us on Twitter @Digilant_US.  Digilant is an ispDigital Group Company (

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