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PPC Trends for Back To School Advertisers: July 2014

Agencies, Marketing Teams, Retail
The Search Monitor just completed this week's industry snapshot of SEM trends, and this week we focused on back to school trends in retail. While everyone else may be in vacation mode, marketers are already gearing up for the back-to-school rush.   First, let's share a few interesting stats about back-to-school search behaviors that make this time of year a very interesting one to monitor:
  • BTS happens earlier than you would think. Nearly 50% of back-to-school shoppers begin shopping three to four weeks before school actually starts. Hey retail marketers, this means you better be advertising on these terms starting about...now!
  • The three most popular BTS search terms from 2013's season were: back-to-school, school supplies, and school shopping. Wonder what will be popular this season.
  • 78% of smartphone owners used their phones to perform BTS searches in 2013, a big jump from the previous year. It's clear you need to make sure ads look good on mobile phones and the copy mentions things like 'mobile-only deals' or 'mobile-friendly shopping site."
(A special thanks to Search Engine Watch for this data from "Back to School Trends 2014: How Search Marketers Can Get Ready Now")

Analysis Performed By The Search Monitor

  • Vertical: Apparel (Clothing, Footwear, Accessories, Jewelry), Computers, Consumer Electronics, Office
  • Dates Analyzed: July 1-8, 2014
  • Metric Analyzed: Most Popular Offers, PPC Market Visibility, Ad Copy Review
  • Engines Analyzed: Google in the US
  • Source: Our vertical-focused Lighthouse tool

What We Learned

the-search-monitor-most-popular-offers-back-to-school First, we wanted to analyze the most popular offers used by all advertisers on the keyword categories listed above.
  • In the first week of July, the most popular retail offer used by back-to-school-advertisers was a sale
  • The next most popular offer was free shipping. In past analyses of PPC offers, such as for Black Friday and after-New-Years sales, we see that Free Shipping is by far the dominant offer. It pays to know which offers your competitors are running throughout the year
  • Talking about in-store promotion or offering a free product were the least popular offers for back-to-school keywords in early July
the-search-monitor-backpack-market-visibility Next, we looked at the PPC market visibility of two major back-to-school advertisers--Macy's and JC Penney-- for the important keywords backpack and backpacks. The Search Monitor's PPC Market visibility metric is relative to the individual advertiser, not all advertisers on these two keywords, and represents the likelihood that an advertiser will get a click based on their reach, rank, and ad frequency. It's a crucial metric for PPC advertisers to trend for themselves, their competitors, and industry leaders as it often signals important shifts in SEM strategy.
  • Macy's had a zero market visibility for these two keywords until June 23, 2014, when in two short days it decided to jump into the search marketing field for backpacks. Then, it maintained a very consistent presence of around 60%
  • JC Penney, meanwhile, had been maintaining a strong presence for these two keywords before Macy's joined.
  • Notice how two days after the 4th of July, on Sunday July 6th, JC Penney boosted their PPC presence to 100% for one day only. They likely had a planned--or even a last-minute--need to provide PPC marketing support to a final 4th of July weekend promotion.
Lastly, we looked at the specific copy that back-to-school advertisers used. How exactly where they using the back-to-school phrase? Anything creative? Here's what we found:
  • HP was one of the leading advertisers for the back-to-school phrase in the backpack category. They were obvioulsy trying a tactic to target students. They ran this ad 48 times during out monitoring period:  "Head Back to School with the Latest in HP Laptops. Shop Now and Save!"
  • VeraBradley.com was another one of the leading advertisers in our analysis. They ran this ad 45 times: "Brilliant & Bright - Shop New Back to School Styles Online Now!"
  • Other advertiserts that showed up in our analysis were Justice.com who ran this ad "40% Off + Free Shipping Over $99! Cool Supplies for Back to School." and Zappos.com that ran "Go Back To School With Zappos Great Selection, Free Shipping"
  • We  only saw one advertiser that went as far as to include a promo code in their ad copy, Macy's. Nice job! You win the The Search Monitor's Back To School PPC Promotional Award with this ad: "Shop Back to School 2014 at Macy's. Save Extra 25% Off w/ Code:Friend"
Want to learn more? Check out our other retail posts and then contact us or schedule a demo with data from your vertical.