A Retailer’s Cliff Notes to a Successful Back-to-Class Season

Even at my age, I get a nervous anxiety when the subject of conversation turns to back-to-school. However—as I’m far from my student days—my angst has migrated from the due date of my first term paper to anxiety-filled discussions with my peers about prepping their troops for the upcoming school year. For most Americans, this encompasses both back-to-school and back-to-college students ranging everywhere from kindergarten to millennial college students. While it may still seem far off for shoppers, retailers know this is the most crucial time for them to determine how they will differentiate themselves in a very crowded retail marketplace.

Running from late May through Labor Day, “back-to-class” is a top major spending holiday,1 with consumers spending more during this season than Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s day combined. No doubt, this retail selling timeframe has grown in importance since I was a student because the needs are greater than ever before, ranging from office supplies, consumables and clothing, to tech gear and even automotive.

Understand Your Shoppers

Although I’ve put both back-to-school and back-to-college under the broader “Back-to-Class” umbrella, it’s important to note the differences between these two key segments from a consumer and media consumption standpoint. Back-to-school shoppers tend to be Millennial parents of K-12 students while college shoppers are more likely to be young adults venturing off to school for the first time. There are notable nuances to consider when developing specific marketing strategies for each to ensure a meaningful connection with a broad range of relevant consumers.

  • For younger consumers, it's a mobile-first world and this consideration should be top of mind when building the messaging plan; engage with this audience where they spend the majority of their time.
  • The back to college segment is particularly hot for electronics, furnishings, clothing and food (ramen, anyone?). In fact, 64% of college freshman plan to stock up on new electronics like laptops, TVs and gaming consoles. Meanwhile, clothing, shoes and school supplies dominate the list for the back-to-school shoppers.2
  • Consumers aged 25-44 spend the most time of any age segment on retailer apps, making mobile first a strategy must. The 45+ consumer may spend less time on retailer apps, but they still represent a top spending segment, and their smart phone use continues to rise steadily each year.3

The Role of Music in Back-to-Class Shopping

Technology has become an indispensable part of today’s modern retail environment and allows retailers to ease a shopper’s path to purchase, particularly with engaging content and seamless UX. Part of breaking through the clutter in an environment overrun with technology for technology sake is to truly connect to consumers on a personalized and human level, meeting them where they live their daily lives. An obvious choice for this intersection of branding and culture is of course, music. Music apps are uniquely suited to leverage consumer data for more personalized targets, which is key to capturing shopper attention and making an impact. Being able to target based on consumer selected moods such as focus, studying or waking up, increases both ad and brand perception, while also raising purchase intent.

A Must-Have Tactic This Shopping Season

Apps such as SoundCloud have the youngest and most diverse audience in music, a direct result of being a creator first platform. They are a highly engaged audience with 13M teen, 19M young adult and 43M parent subscribers.4 Additionally, Pandora is the world’s most powerful music discovery platform and delivers personalized music experiences, setting the stage for a hyper personalized ad experience in real-time, leveraging Pandora’s listener data. Together, Pandora x SoundCloud offer a prime opportunity to capture an engaged audience spanning a wide range of prime Back-to-Class consumers.

So, really, there’s no reason for “back-to-class” anxiety on anyone’s part. For consumers young and old, never have we seen more potential to reap benefits that technology brings through innovative mobile shopping tools and omni-channel purchase options. For advertisers, partnering with data centric digital publishers like Pandora allow development of more precise target strategies to reach those shoppers with more personalized messages at the most contextually relevant moment in their music listening experience.

  1. Deloitte Back to School Survey
  2. Deloitte Back to College Survey
  3. Digital Commerce 360, Time Spent in Retail Apps
  4. Pandora Internal Metrics, Feb 2019