@ChristiJOlson, https://www.linkedin.com/in/christijolson

Back-to-school, the year’s second largest retail spending holiday, is in full swing. And according to research from Bing Ads, technology is top-of-mind for college-age shoppers. Digital marketers know that one of the best ways to take advantage of this increase in consumer spending is to use data to guide digital marketing campaigns. Right now is a prime opportunity for Microsoft Partners to optimize search campaigns for this audience.

Below, I’ve listed some insights to help you build and optimize your ad campaigns to take full advantage of this major spending influx.

Timing is everything, so start now

If you haven’t done so already, get started. Because laptops, tablets, and mobile devices are big-ticket items, shoppers tend to do plenty of online research before making a purchase. According to Bing Ads research, searches for PCs, tablets, and mobile devices jump near the end of August and peak the week ending October 1.

Set up your pay per click (PPC) campaigns now and make sure you allocate enough budget to accommodate traffic increases. As always, save yourself some time and money by reviewing last season’s campaigns and then apply the lessons learned to this year’s campaigns. You’ll also want to test word length and images for optimal results. Adjust ads to meet shoppers where they are in their buying journey. Shoppers in research mode tend to respond well to longer, more informative ad text. However, later in their journey when they’re ready to buy, shorter ad text may drive better results.

Use the top searched terms

Using the right search terms is critical. For example, our research shows that in the category of laptops and tablets, “HP,” “Samsung,” “iPad,” and “Microsoft tablets” were the top searched brands. For cell phones, iPhone and Samsung were the top brands searched.

Remember that shoppers are looking for good deals. When it comes to laptops and tablets, top unbranded searched terms in 2016 were “best deals tablets” and “best tablet deal.” For unbranded cell phones and plans searches, shoppers were searching for “best smartphones” and “top 10 best smartphones.”

With this in mind, be sure that you are bidding on both your brands and your competitors for maximum results. Set your bids in anticipation of increased competition during seasonal peaks. You’ll also want to employ long-tail brand terms. For shoppers who are still in research mode, consider influencing their decisions by using a review extension. You may also want to link customers to product comparisons or tools like Consumer Device Finder and Education Device Finder to help them choose the right product.

Get to know your shoppers

The back-to-college shopping crowd includes not just the college-bound. It also includes their parents and even educators themselves. So when you are putting together your campaigns, you need to keep these distinct audiences in mind. For example, college freshmen tend to be more influenced by their parents than their more experienced cohorts. You’ll also want to keep their location in mind.

Segment audiences by age and gender and be sure to place bid adjustments to increase chances that your ad will display more prominently for your target audience. You’ll also want to take full advantage of advanced campaign settings to adjust demographic targeting.

Finally, don’t forget about shopping cart abandoners. The shopping cart abandonment rate in North America is 74%. These high-quality visitors have already been to your site. Give them a nudge in the right direction by reconnecting with them through remarketing.

Know their final shopping destination

Did you know that according to Bing Ads, 43% of technology shoppers research online and then purchase in-store? In fact, 61% of technology purchases are made in-store, with the bulk of research happening online. Only 14% of technology purchases are both researched and purchased online.

What this means is that if you’re focused on only driving online purchases, you may be missing the bigger picture. Use demographic targeting to direct shoppers to their local and online retail destinations. Synchronize your digital campaigns across multiple media for maximum impact.

With back-to-college shoppers on the hunt for technology deals, right now is the time to make the most of this retail influx. For more online search and advertising insights, be sure to download and fully explore Bing Ads research, which includes a helpful back-to-school cheat sheet.

How are you using paid advertising for your digital marketing campaigns? Share with the Microsoft Partner Community today.