Out of Home Reaches Back-to-School Shoppers Along a Changed Customer Journey

From by Jay Fenster, Marketing Manager, OUTFRONT

Back-to-school shopping looks different for 2022, with students fully returned to in-person learning amidst an economy gripped by inflation. Parents and guardians expect to spend more overall; at the same time they are deeply price-conscious and promotion-friendly. One thing that hasn’t changed is out of home’s importance along the customer journey.

New research from The Harris Poll, commissioned by the OAAA, sheds light on this critically important shopping season, offering insights into what, where, and how back-to-school shoppers are buying – and what kind of campaigns most effectively influence their purchase decisions.

As BTS budgets increase, shoppers seek alternatives

Parents and guardians of school-aged children are bracing their wallets, with 75% planning to spend more this year than last, and 32% planning to spend a lot more than usual. Eight percent plan to spend over $1,000; another 36% anticipate spending between $500 and $1,000[1].

The dark cloud of inflation looms large over the heads of back-to-school shoppers, and paired with supply chain woes, it has forced consumers to get creative. Forty-six percent have shopped a different brand recently and 37% have shopped a different retailer. What’s more, 90% of those who’ve switched say they won’t switch back[2].

Whether this represents an opportunity or a threat is a matter of perspective, but regardless of whether you’re playing offense or defense, out of home lets you communicate your value proposition – and your value – to an audience that’s looking for exactly that.

Price Is the primary purchase consideration

With inflation raging and a potential recession looming, back-to-school shoppers are nothing if not price-sensitive. In fact, 70% cited price, promotion, and sales as the most important decision factor when shopping. Among suburbanites, that number rises to 78%; among women it hits 81%[3].

Substitution is a common tactic to reduce spending, with 90% saying that inflation has impacted their brand or product choices. In response, 63% plan to look for less expensive alternative products while 52% will look for promotions, offers, and rewards. Only 14% plan to buy fewer items[4].

Out of home gives brands the opportunity to communicate what matters most to back-to-school shoppers: deals. Specifically, 68% of shoppers will be looking for OOH ads publicizing back-to-school deals, and 88% find ads focused on value or savings to be relevant[5]

Whether online or in-store, out of home makes an impact

The return of in-person learning mirrors the return to in-person shopping. 69% of back-to-school shoppers plan to shop in store[6], and for those brick-and-mortar buyers, OOH offers IRL presence along the path to purchase.

To drive in-store shopping, retailers can emphasize their own IRL presence. 79% of consumers find ads oriented to convenience or location to be relevant, while 75% feel that way about ads focused on supporting the community[7].

But what about the 40% of consumers who plan to shop online[8]? Out of home impacts their customer journeys as well. New research from Comscore and the OAAA shows that dollar for dollar, OOH drives digital activation at higher rates than every other medium measured. For example, they found that out of home drives 5.3x more online purchases and 4.9x more website visits compared to other media[9].

Apparel, school supplies dominate shopping lists

Shoppers plan to send their kids back to school well-equipped and dressed for success.

Unsurprisingly, school supplies rank highest as the most-intended purchases for back-to-school shoppers (64%). Shoes (60%) and clothing (53%) trail close behind. Personal protective equipment (PPE) figures into the plans of 41% of BTS shoppers, and 39% intend to buy textbooks[10].

As far as the largest line-items parents and guardians expect to shop for, nearly half cited apparel (24% clothing, 12% shoes, 11% school uniforms). One in five expect to spend the most on a laptop or computer (20%), and 14% anticipate spending the most on textbooks[11].

To turn these intended purchases into actual buys, brands can turn to out of home. After all, 80% of consumers have made a purchase after seeing an OOH ad[12].

Out of Home Makes the Grade

Brands need to act with agility to keep pace with 2022’s inflation-altered back-to-school shopping season. Fortunately, out of home advertising provides the platform, reach, and frequency with which to influence purchase decisions. And by using that platform to communicate value, advertisers can be sure to capture their share.

1 The Harris Poll, 2022
2 McKinsey, 2022
3 The Harris Poll, 2022
4 InMarket, 2022
5 The Harris Poll, 2022
6 The Harris Poll, 2022
7 The Harris Poll, 2022
8 The Harris Poll, 2022
9 Comscore, 2022
10 The Harris Poll, 2022
11 The Harris Poll, 2022
12 OneScreen.ai, 2022