Missing the Bus: The Overlooked Potential of Back-to-School Campaigns

By Dave Donnelly, Executive Director of Retail Sales, Eyeview

Retailers’ back-to-school campaigns are in full force across the nation, but it takes more than a successful circular to get a passing grade in the school of modern advertising. With competition for consumers’ attention at an all-time high, real advertising success isn’t truly possible without long-term, cost-effective results.

Yet, too many marketers continue to view seasonal campaigns as one-offs designed to increase sales of specialized product sets within a relatively small window. While driving sales is, of course, almost always a priority for any retailer, a short-term outlook will lead marketers to miss the bus on opportunities to boost their bottom line for the months and years to come.

After all — to extend our school analogy — it takes more than an ‘A’ on one test to pass a semester. Good students invest in the future and marketers should, too.

Through the new digital tools now available, virtually any campaign can be designed to provide tangible, long-term value. From increasing the effectiveness of future ads to generating customer loyalty and improving ROAS (Return on Advertising Spend), campaigns like back-to-school offer hidden potential to advertisers willing to take a holistic approach to their seasonal activities. Helping retailers better understand their customers on an individual basis, the data digital delivers is the key to empowering each and every ad a retailer will ever serve.  

Here are five best practices to using data to empower your back-to-school campaign for long-term results:

1. Don’t neglect video. Digital video is a powerful advertising tool that is surprisingly adaptable for a wide range of campaigns. For instance, many retailers have been seeing strong results from “v-circulars,” a fresh take on traditional circulars that uses video to highlight products and promotions. With data-enabled video, it’s possible to tailor v-circulars to include customized products for specific individuals.

2. Develop product sets customized by demographic group. While the stereotypical back-to-school shopper demographic has traditionally been mothers, retailers have seen increased purchases from expanded demographics, with fathers tending to make technological purchases (iPads, etc) for their children, and teenagers themselves buying fashion items like backpacks and device cases. Knowing that these different demographics have different product preferences, retailers can spare themselves the expense of running entirely separate campaigns for each group, and use demographic data to show relevant product sets to individual shoppers.

3. Track ancillary purchases. An ad that captures a shopper’s attention and leads them to multiple purchases, including items not featured in that ad, is considered to be a bonus. But by digging further into that bonus purchase and relating it back to both the item being advertised and the consumer doing the purchasing, brands can develop deep insights about what their customers care about, and use these insights to optimize future campaigns.

4. Adjust for a shorter advertising window — optimize in real-time. Optimizing an ongoing campaign is substantially less expensive than kicking off an entirely new effort. By tracking a campaign’s results on a continual basis, advertisers can see who is buying what, and why — and then feed this data back into campaigns to improve how ads are being served.

5. Develop granular insights based on sales and post-impression activity. Brands must look beyond clicks and impressions metrics to gauge their campaign results and inform their future efforts. By tying post-impression data into their analytics, advertisers can learn more about a customer’s journey. For instance, did a consumer view an ad, then read a review and ultimately make an in-store purchase? This type of information can be invaluable for identifying weakness along the sales process, and optimizing future campaigns.

Don’t waste your back-to-school campaign in a single-minded pursuit of short-term sales. A data-based, long-term approach is what separates advertising dunces from honors students.

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