Connected TV

Score an A+ on Your Back to School Campaigns

Hybrid learning takes front row seats as we transition into a different Back to School model for the new school year.

Score an A+ on Your Back to School Campaigns

4 Min Read

The full-time work model isn’t the only thing changing post-pandemic – the learning and education system is also facing some big changes of its own and signals big things for advertisers. States like Connecticut are rethinking the traditional 9am – 3pm ‘butts in seat’ school day and exploring a “combination of time in [student’s] seat, plus time with a tutor, plus some virtual work, plus skill development…it’s a much more holistic way of looking at what students learn as opposed to looking at the hours [they’re] in a seat, which doesn’t guarantee learning anyway.”

There is also the case of ‘the lost year.’ A year where many students and their families struggled with the challenges of online learning, and are now playing catch up. A recent article published by The Washington Post reported that the “coronavirus rescue package includes almost $123 Billion for public K-12 schools, and districts are required to spend at least 20 percent of their funding on evidence-based interventions to address learning loss.” In other words, expect more summer school programming and extra-curricular activities to supplement the school day as accelerated learning takes precedent. So, what does a flexible learning schedule + auxiliary activities + a longer back-to-school shopping season mean for advertisers this year?

Notebooks are the New Notebooks

That wasn’t a typo. The National Retail Federation reported some record hitting figures last year:

  • Average K-12 spending would hit a record high of $789.49 per family, up from its previous record of $696.70.
  • Spending on college students hit a record high of $1059.20 per family, up from $976.78.
  • Overall back-to-school spending increased by almost 30%, $33.9 Billion up from $26.2 Billion in 2019.

The top performing categories were pricier items like laptops (aka. notebooks), tablet and headphones to facilitate the virtual learning system last year, which contributed to increased spend. These served dual purposes, not only for remote learning but to also strengthen family ties at home.

When we analyzed our own customer data of Back-to-School related verticals, which also included school supply retailers, consumer electronics, clothing & apparel and home goods, and other related industries, we saw a steady share of site visits from July through September (refer to the graph below). This suggests that Back-to-School isn’t taking a back seat when it comes to customer discovery and browsing, and advertisers should start their campaigns as early as June. Some brands and retailers have seen a “mini-BTS” movement as kids who have been learning remotely over the past year have returned to schools this spring.” Not to mention, retail behemoth Amazon decided to move their Prime Day to the second quarter, well ahead of the Back-to-School shopping season – and we expect many other retailers to follow suit since this early timing could benefit sales boosts to other categories in addition to the BTS sector.

Connected TV advertising - Share of Site Visits for Back to School Verticals

The Pendulum Swings Between Revenue and Site Visits

Through analyzing over $3.5 billion in overall Connected TV advertising transactions last year, we noticed that revenue and site visits swapped momentum over time, where site visits increased while revenue gradually declined. However, once we narrowed this down to just Back-to-School advertisers, we saw a relatively consistent level of site visits but a clear upswing in revenue from the beginning of August as last minute shoppers swooped in for purchases right before the school year. Revenue spiked in mid August, which also coincided with the week 29% of US students returned to the new (remote learning) school year.

Connected TV advertising - Site Visits & Revenue across Back to School Verticals

While we saw 45% of conversions occurring after school started (those last minute shoppers are real, folks), we predict the pendulum to swing the other way in 2021, and even earlier in the year.   The National Education Association released an article about the future of schools, placing a heavier emphasis on extracurricular activities than ever before to support students in their learning, with a variety of tools and resources. For example, a music immersion class might include instruments, but also technology to mix together audio tracks.  One teacher even commented that “I’m going to recognize that everything I take from this year will go into my bag of tricks and I’ll pull it out as I need it. As much as we want to put this experience behind us, I don’t think forgetting this year would be valuable.” Long story short, it’s not only the standard school supplies that will apply this year as extra-curricular programs and summer schools are also added into the traditional ‘BTS mix.’

Now that you have a better idea of what to expect this Back-to-School season, onto the fun part – how to set your campaigns up for success. Keep your eyes out on our blog, as we reveal some handy tips and recommendations to get you going.