Back to School: Lessons From Outbrain’s Native Data Insights

back to school

Back to school is big business. In 2017, back to school sales in the US alone totaled $27 billion.

This long-awaited shopping season begins about two months before the start of every school year in September. Yet even in the last week of August, 21% of consumers are still shopping. For retailers and brands, back to school is a relatively short yet intense period in which to grab consumer attention online – and native ads are a great way to do it.

Not just pencils and notebooks…

Back to school purchases include more than just school supplies, but rather clothing and accessories, computers, and hardware and electronics too. These purchases are driving an online shopping boost, with 45% of consumers planning to buy online.

With so much concentrated spending falling on the shoulders of families at this time, it’s no wonder that people are searching for back to school deals and specials, and as we can see in the data, they’re searching online.

Back to school data insights: Bucking the trend?

Prepping for this online shopping boom, we did a deep-dive into Outbrain’s enormous native advertising network to check out the online traffic and trends during back to school 2018. So to kick off, here is some interesting and trend-bucking data:

More tablet and desktop – less mobile

In other verticals, we’ve seen higher CTR on mobile devices, reflecting an overall trend towards mobile as the preferred platform. Interestingly, in the back to school season, tablet and desktop are performing way better than mobile. This may be a demographic reflection – consumers searching for back to school items are not millennials or Gen Zers, who are more likely than older consumers to browse and purchase via mobile. Also, this season is high summer in the US, which means consumers may be more inclined to surf the internet in the cool comfort of home.

🎓 What You Can Learn:

In our mobile-centric world, it’s important to optimize your native ads for mobile. However, you can take advantage of the high CTR on tablet and desktop during back to school season to promote relevant, interesting content that may be less suitable for mobile formats.

Peak ‘back to school’: From 9 to 5

Unlike specific event-based data dives, the back to school insights show that 9am to 5pm is the busiest time for content consumption, with 5pm hitting the peak.

hourly clicks

🎓What You Can Learn:

Although late afternoon is the peak time, 9am to 5pm has the highest number of clicks on Outbrain’s network. You may get better CTR by promoting native ads during work hours.

Back to school = Middle-age concerns

The highest CTR by referring category during back to school content season is – by far – the weight loss category, shortly trailed by the ‘small business’ and ‘mobile’ categories. This is a really eyebrow-raising insight, reflecting the interests of the age group most engaged during the back to school period. Weight loss and small business are the content playground of middle age consumers – who are also more likely to be the parents or guardians of school-age children.

CTR in education categories

🎓What You Can Learn:

During back to school season, focus on serving content to the right demographic (parents, guardians, and kids). You can do this most effectively by targeting them with content about their true interests. Outbrain’s interest targeting feature is an effective way to convert your back-to-school audiences.

 Take a look at how Babbel, an online language learning platform, increased their conversion rates by hundreds of percentages in their first month using Outbrain.

The keywords that get the top grades

While the most popular keyword listings were focused on educational concepts, the most popular search keywords were people-based. Advertisers preferred to use keywords such as ‘education’, ‘school’ and ‘teacher’, while the most searched keywords were ‘classmates’, ‘schooler’ and ‘elementary’.

Back to school Keywords

🎓What You Can Learn:

Take into account the nature of the title keywords that get the most clicks on Outbrain’s ad network, so you can align your promoted content accordingly. You can also check out this post about best practices for creating headlines and images for your native ads. For example, you may want to use the keyword ‘schooler’, combined with a list-style heading, such as “5 Accessories Every High Schooler Must Have”. Not only can this help your CTR, it also helps to sharpen your content focus.

Back to school shopping is no simple feat. Consumers shopping for back to school make an average of 16 trips across 6 retailer stores. This is a great opportunity for retailers to promote special deals online, such as free shipping or discounts for bulk purchases. Not to mention the        sales tax holidays that are enforced in different states at different times. These too can be leveraged to target location-specific audiences with native ads promoting tax-free back to school deals.

Whichever way you tackle your online KPIs during back to school season, be sure to consider the latest Brainpower data. It will help your native ad campaign get top marks this season.

Class dismissed!


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