More ABCs of back-to-school marketing campaigns

In my last blog post, Do Your Homework before Planning a Back-to-School Marketing Strategy, we covered the basics around market opportunity and how to start segmenting the “mom audience.” This time we’re going to dig deeper into the attitudes and behaviors of certain key shopping segments.

Data from Experian Simmons demonstrates the effect certain attitudes can have on back-to-school shopping behavior. When moms were asked how strongly they agreed with the statement “I find it hard to resist my kids’ request for non-essentials,” we noticed an increase in the percentage who agreed beginning around the end of June.

The increase is especially pronounced from the middle of July to the end of September. This happens to coincide with the heart of the back-to-school shopping season when moms are most likely to be keeping an eye out for special offers and promotions. The data also provides some evidence that moms are likely to be prime targets for spending on their children earlier in the back-to-school season than marketers might currently think.

But it isn’t really possible to know what all of your prospective customers are thinking. Unfortunately, you can’t speak to each and every mom or dad of school age children in a personal fashion – but neither should you treat your entire back-to-school audience the same way.

Casting a wide net to capture a faceless target audience used to work pretty well when I was a kid a few decades back. It was really a matter of which advertiser shouted the loudest and with the biggest hook. Not only that, but when Sears and Kmart were the only retailers in town, my mom didn’t have much of a choice. And how many marketers really bothered to target dads with back-to-school promotions back then?

Today, there are lots of ways to dissect the back-to-school market. Sure, we can describe households with kids using the usual demographics including age of parents, number of kids, age of children, household income, etc., but that doesn’t really capture the true essence of the back-to-school market. Why? Because demographics alone don’t paint a very interesting or clear picture of how to attract shoppers who are searching for all kinds of back-to-school merchandise and, at the same time, getting bombarded with multiple offers.

So let’s study the market more closely. I like to define the back-to-school audience in multi-dimensional terms. By doing this, we can develop specific lifestyle segments that can be targeted with the most relevant back-to-school offers and promotions. Here are some examples taken from Experian’s Mosaic® USA lifestyle segmentation solution:

  • Babies and Bliss
  • Families Matter Most
  • Sports Utility Families
  • Picture Perfect Families
  • Kids and Cabernet
  • Hispanic Harmony
  • Cul de Sac Diversity

Based on an analysis of purchase and shopping data from Experian Simmons, we can see that these seven segments are quite unique in terms of their shopping attitudes and behaviors. Let’s take a look at some examples:

About 39% of adults who are parents with children living at home agree with the statement “I prefer to shop with my family.” But the percentage who agreed with this statement varies significantly when looking at our seven targeted segments. Cul de Sac Diversity and Hispanic Harmony are much more likely to agree. This could reflect cultural differences and their impact on shopping behavior. In this case, shopping is a family event. By contrast, some of the more affluent segments are less likely to agree. Consumers from the Kids and Cabernet and Picture Perfect Families segments might be more apt to be doing their shopping with fewer family members in tow.

Now take a look at how children have an influence on brands shopped.

Here, the influence of children on brands purchased is most pronounced for segments such as Kids and Cabernet and Babies and Bliss. Shoppers from the Hispanic Harmony and Cul de Sac Diversity segments also have an above average likelihood to say their children influence the brands they choose, but the influence is not as strong. The key take-away here is that certain segments are more brand-conscious than others and, where possible, the power of the brand should be leveraged when developing marketing campaigns that are targeted to these particular segments.

When we look at the influence of the Internet on shopping behavior, a different pattern emerges.

Consumers from the Babies and Bliss segment are most likely to agree with the statement “I often use the Internet to plan my shopping trips.” At the opposite end of the scale, Families Matter Most and Hispanic Harmony are not as likely to use the Internet to help plan their shopping. Clearly, these segments do not behave the same way.

The collective findings from these three statements alone mean we need to develop a unique back-to-school marketing plan for each of the segments. For example, we might target the Cul de Sac Diversity segment with display ads and emails emphasizing a wide selection of brands that kids like. This could be coordinated with certain in-store events and promotions that are designed to appeal to the entire family.

Now let’s look at who the bargain hunters are.

Somewhat surprisingly, Picture Perfect Families are 21% more likely to agree that they shop around to take advantage of special promotions and bargains. I say “surprisingly” because they are one of the more affluent consumer segments out of our targeted audience. This indicates that they are actively seeking out and searching for good deals. Consumers from Babies and Bliss and Cul de Sac Diversity also have an above average propensity to be looking out for special deals.

But notice when asked if they have used a coupon either online or from an email promotion, it’s Sports Utility Families and Families Matter Most who are most likely to agree. Consumers from both of these segments didn’t particularly stand out in terms of their likelihood to use the Internet for planning their shopping trips but they are highly responsive to targeted promotions. This could be an indication that they are less proactive in seeking out special deals but highly reactive when approached with a compelling offer they can’t refuse.

For more information, watch our recent webinar about planning your back-to-school marketing campaigns in style. You’ll see more information on what’s outlined above as well as informative stats around search behavior and how to target the lucrative college student market.