“Back to school! Back to school, to prove to Dad that I’m not a fool! I got my lunch packed up, my boots tied tight, I hope I don’t get in a fight!…”

If you love the movie Billy Madison as much as me, then you’re singing the rest of the song in your head right now. Despite how much fun Billy had redoing K-12, I bet he would have rather redone college (well…if he’d gone to college).

College, my friends is where it is at, especially for retailers looking to capitalize on the second largest consumer-shopping event behind holiday. While back-to-school is a $55 billion opportunity, back-to-college spending actually accounts for a larger piece of the pie.

In fact, back-to-college consumer spending is actually twice as high as back-to-school, making it a key component to your overall strategy. Here are a couple quick tips on how to augment your back-to-school campaigns to make sure you’re addressing the Co-Eds.

Speak Their Language

Consumer electronics are a hot category for both the back-to-school and the back-to-college crowds.

Try implementing a simple A/B ad copy test to identify whether the back-to-school or back-to-college message performs best for your campaigns.

Remember to pay close attention to metrics outside of conversion, especially AOV when determining a winner.

Home furnishings and furniture are another big focus for the dormitory bound. If you’re a retailer able to meet this demand, make sure to update your keyword lists with new seasonal type keywords such as “x long sheets”, “futons” and even perhaps “ready to assemble” to align your offering with the consumer intent.

Footwear and apparel will be a big focus for both groups; with the emphasis on back-to-school but college students need clothes and shoes too.

You have an opportunity to get hyper targeted with clothing based on regions and seasons. With such a high concentration of schools in the Northeast, perhaps you can get a jump on selling your winter apparel and boots while in the Southeast and Southwest try to sell the remaining summer clearance items.

Diversify Your Devices

According to Nielsen, college age individuals (ages 18-24) watch more online videos than any other age group, making this channel a great opportunity to get in front of this audience.

Have you made sure to opt your campaigns into YouTube? How about trying promoted videos or even a video content platform like Visible Measures or Specific Media.

Back to school is also a great time to explore doing more with mobile, especially given the growth and popularity of smart phones among the collegiate crowd and the explosion of tablet devices in recent months.

Communicate Your UVP Clearly

While the back-to-school kids are primarily using their parents as their purchasing vehicles, the back to college crowd is likely going to be a bit more independent and thus looking for the best value, not just the best price.

Try using a variety of offers to showcase value, including:

  • Tax-free weekend: Who doesn’t like saving ten percent? Many states offer this savings opportunity in the first weeks of August, with the discount available online as well as in stores. Check out this chart for more information on participating states.
  • Comparison shopping is bigger than ever, especially with the ability to check in store via a mobile device. If your brand offers a price match guarantee, now is a good time to include that in ad copy and on landing pages for both regular and mobile sites.
  • Reward and loyalty programs are also a good differentiator and can also help you build a lifetime customer going forward. Make sure your calling out this UVP in ad copy and explaining the program clearly on landing pages.

Back-to-school is a great opportunity for retailers to get in front of a diverse audience with a large combined spending power. It’s important to remember that back-to-school isn’t just for the kids and that the back-to-college actually yields a larger portion of that buying power.

Make sure to include this crucial target in your overall strategy to capture the full potential of this large shopping season.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Retail | Search & Retail

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About The Author: is Associate Director of Retail at iProspect. As an external strategic consultant for iProspect clients, Diana is responsible for evangelizing and educating client leadership about paid search, providing strategic insights in online marketing, and building strong relationships within their organizations.

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