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Summer is only just beginning, but parents are already thinking about the back-to-school season. According to NRF, back-to-school (BTS) and back-to-college (BTC) shoppers spend more per household than Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day combined. In fact, it’s expected to reach $82 billion.

Whether it’s online or offline, it’s a prime shopping season that you cannot miss, which is significantly aided by mobile. In fact, 53% of consumers plan to use their smartphones for BTS shopping. Marketers realize how big of an opportunity BTS is, allocating 56% more to mobile marketing budgets compared to prior years.

Understanding what this BTS shopping journey looks like will ensure that these investments pay off, and that those dollars are spent with your brand. But this is easier said than done since it’s hard to differentiate the nuances between different BTS shoppers. Rather than casting a wide net, you need to understand what your consumers are looking for, how and when they shop, and what messages should be used to attract them.

To help you navigate this massive mobile opportunity, I developed four key lessons you can start applying to your marketing plan.

Lesson One: Moms like to avoid in-store traffic

Thanks to mobile and tech, moms can now avoid the BTS rush. Looking at Ogury’s mobile journey data, active app users increased across multiple large retailers last July compared to the previous year, including Walmart (22%), Best Buy (13%) and Staples (58%). Moms are going online more and more. In fact, a survey last year discovered that 74% of smartphone-wielding moms in the U.S. plan to shop online for school supplies. Roughly half of the moms surveyed reported picking up their orders in-store. Others had planned to order supplies through an app (41%), get them via curbside pickup (24%), or use a virtual assistant (21%).

This means you need an omnichannel strategy that supports these on-the-go moms; from online grocery pickup apps to delivery sites. Knowing how your target audience shops can help you deliver a better all-encompassing media strategy.

Lesson Two: Peak Shopping Days Vary by Brand

Timing is one of the biggest factors of any marketing strategy. Using mobile journey data will enable you to see exactly when consumers are engaging with both your brand and your competitors.

Ogury Active Insights revealed the differences in peak shopping periods for Amazon and Walmart:

Ogury’s first-party data reveals that Walmart sees consistent traffic while Amazon has more clearly defined peak days, which also align with Walmart’s peaks. You can do the same with your brand to identify the best days to reach your shoppers, and know when to ramp up messaging for slower days.

Lesson Three: BTS and BTC Shoppers Value Different Verticals

The needs of BTS and BTC shoppers vary, which is reflected in the verticals and categories in which they shop.

Sixty-four percent of freshman college students plan to stop up on new electronics like laptops, gaming consoles and TVs before going to university. On average, these students spend roughly $229 on electronics, $153 on clothes and $83 on shoes. Back-to-school shoppers, however, spend more on clothing ($237) and shoes ($139) than electronics ($187).

Insights drawn from Ogury mobile user journey data reveal that Best Buy app users engaged with their app the most amount of times towards the end of the BTS season. By contrast, H&M app users had more sessions towards the start. This goes to show that while the categories for BTS and BTC shoppers are similar, their priorities are vastly different. You can use this level of insight to your advantage by aligning your media strategies with the key verticals that appeal to these audiences.

Lesson Four: Use State Sales Tax Holidays to Your Advantage

Early August is one of the biggest spending months for BTS shoppers, with 67% of active shoppers and a total spend of $9.9 billion.

What’s the deal behind these stats?

Well, it turns out that a lot of people like to save money. More than 70 percent of older millennials (ages 25 and up) try to find the best deals and lowest prices. It just so happens that August is also the month where more states host tax-free weekends. Looking at Ogury’s first-party mobile journey data, engagement on Target’s app and site consistently peaks across each Sunday in August, as shoppers take advantage of the savings.

How can you capitalize on this trend? Use an always-on marketing strategy to stay relevant with your shoppers. Boost your media tactics by incorporating incentivized messaging during peak state sales tax holidays to capture attention when they’re in the market to purchase.

Whether you want to reach moms with K-12 children or high school grads heading off to college, it’s important to understand their mobile user journey. This will allow you to see how these consumers behave outside of your owned channels, personalize your media messages to each stage of their shopping journey, and know when to upweight media to get the highest engagement.

Want to learn more about how you can leverage mobile journey data to reach your BTS and BTC consumers? Reach out to me directly at

Kevin Fitzgerald, Head of Insights, US

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