The data on back-to-school content consumption…it’s not too early to start your 2014 campaign

|Wendy Bernal

Spring is finally here! That means it’s time to start your back-to-school campaigns. Too early you say?  Not according to the content consumption trends we saw across the Outbrain network last year and spending trends from the National Retail Federation.

Back-to-school content consumption starts as soon as the last bell rings

Outbrain data shows that Americans began consuming content as early as June last year and according to the NRF’s Back-to-School Survey, they began shopping in July.  Back-to-school and back-to-college spending was estimated at $72.5 billion, making it the second-biggest season for retailers. Winter holiday ranks first at $84 billion and Mother’s Day comes in at third at $21 billion.


Why so early? These shoppers are likely taking advantage of fresh stocks of merchandise, early-bird markdowns and the freedom to comparison-shop.  Americans also spread out their content consumption (and spending) over a few periods of time instead of hitting it all at once at the end of the summer.  The second and more sustained spike in content consumption that began in August and lasted through September (a more traditional back-to-school shopping period) reinforces this trend.  The wave in September, after school has kicked off is also interesting to note; perhaps these  folks were looking for end-of the season and clearance items.

And don’t forget, in a world of “fast “ or “disposable” fashion, back-to-school clothes shopping isn’t what it used to be… especially for millennial girls.  The ritual of spending a Saturday in August at the mall with mom to buy school clothes is not the pinnacle of the shopping period.  Trend savvy teens and tweens are taking advantage of more affordable retail options and waiting to see what else comes out, and of course, what their friends are wearing.

Back-to-school shopping content goes across devices

According to the NRF, 37% of back-to-school shoppers conduct research and shop online.  In fact, they use mobile and tablets devices significantly to research products, compare prices, look up retailer information, redeem coupons and make purchases.

Across the Outbrain network, we saw fluctuations in school and college content consumption on desktop, mobile and tablets that reflects the varying motivations over these periods of time.  If the early, less rushed shoppers are doing research in June, then it makes sense that they consume back-to-school content at home on their desktops and tablets.  The more traditional and last-minute shoppers are likely consuming the content on the go and in-stores; this is seen by the growth in mobile and tablet consumption in August and September.



What does this mean for your 2014 campaign?

1. Ensure your back-to-school campaigns are live by June and increase the amplification at the beginning of August.

2. Keep your back-to-school and college campaigns live through September to reach those shoppers who don’t necessarily finish before school starts.  This gives you time to test and update your messaging.

3. Back-to-school shoppers spend their budgets on the things you’d expect: new clothing, shoes, school supplies and electronics. Why not use content-rich video and slideshows to tell the full product story!

4. Don’t under-estimate the power of reviews!  For those researchers and comparison shoppers, positive reviews of your products can be a deciding factor.  Drive to customer reviews to instill confidence in your offering.

5. Make sure your content meets the needs of a consumer on a tablet or mobile device –provide the right amount of information for each device…and optimize your site for purchases!

Optimize your campaign now! 

Sources:, NRF, Outbrain,



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Wendy Bernal

Wendy Bernal

Wendy Bernal is Marketing Director for North America and LATAM at Outbrain where she is responsible for managing and implementing... Read more

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