Targeting Back-to-School Shoppers: Audience Insights

When it comes to running a successful back-to-school campaign, understanding your target audience is key. At Zeta, we ran a study of over 500 US adults to see how different consumer segments are approaching back-to-school shopping in 2023. In Part 2 of our back-to-school series, you’ll get data-driven audience insights to power your back-to-school campaigns.

You can also find an overview of the main trends in our infographic.

Who Is the Typical Back-to-School Shopper? Target Audience Profile

To target back-to-school shoppers effectively, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of their demographic profile. Based on our study, the target audience for back-to-school shopping is predominantly:

  • Female
  • Aged 55-65
  • With a household income of $75,000-$199,000

It’s worth noting that although the most significant customer segment is aged 55-65, the majority of BTS shoppers fall somewhere within the 25-65 age range.

Shoppers are mainly interested in school supplies, with 21% focusing on those, followed by clothing and accessories at 20%, and electronics at 17%.

Inflation and economic worries seem to be top of mind, as half (43%) of all shoppers have a maximum budget of $300.

Most shoppers are planning on doing their shopping offline, with 29% heading to big box stores, 19% to department stores, and 16% choosing local retailers. Online shoppers are in the minority, with less than a quarter (24%) preferring online retailers.

Target Audience Deep-Dive

The overall trends only tell part of the story. The demographic profile, interests and budget of back-to-school shoppers vary considerably based on where they are shopping, and which items they are planning to purchase.

For instance, different customer segments have different budgets. Our data shows that those shopping for electronics have the highest budgets, with 17% expecting to spend over $800, and 19% expecting to spend $1,000. Those shopping for back-to-school supplies, on the other hand, have the most modest budgets, with 31% spending up to $300, and 23% planning to spend $400-$700.

Targeting High-Budget Shoppers

Electronics is the highest-budget category, and the third most popular category, after school supplies and clothing and accessories.

We found that the age distribution of electronics shoppers is diverse, with 16% falling within the 25-35 age range, 17% aged 35-45, 16% aged 45-55, and 22% aged 55-65.  

In terms of gender, electronics has the most male shoppers compared with other audiences, but still skews slightly more towards females, with a 53% female and 47% male split. The majority of electronics shoppers have a household income range of $45,000-$74,000.

Clothing and accessories are the second most valuable product category, with 23% spending $400-$700, and 34% spending over $800. Online and offline retailers have a good chance of snagging these high-value customers, as their shopping location preferences are fairly evenly distributed. 22% of these shoppers are headed to big box stores, 22% to department stores, 23% to online retailers and 20% to local retailers.

Engaging Online Shoppers

The profiles of those who shop online are significantly different from in-store shoppers.

Our data shows that 59% of online back-to-school shoppers are female, which is higher than in-store shoppers (53%). In terms of age, 29% of online shoppers fall within the 55-65 age range, while the majority (60%) are aged 35-65. Furthermore, online customers tend to have a higher household income range of $75,000-$199,000.

Those shopping at online retailers are most likely to be looking for clothing and accessories (23%), followed by school supplies (22%), and electronics (20%).

Online shoppers are most likely to be browsing from New York, Charlotte, San Francisco, Philadelphia or Miami.

Low-Budget Shoppers

Low-budget shoppers present a different set of characteristics. They exhibit a relatively even gender distribution, with 52% being female and 48% male.

In terms of age, low-budget shoppers tend to skew younger, with 25% falling below the age of 35, compared to 16% of big-budget shoppers. While the 55-65 age range remains the largest segment at 18%, it is less significant when compared with all other back-to-school audiences. 

Tips For Effectively Targeting Back-To-School Shoppers

  1. Big Box Stores should prioritize school supplies in their advertising messaging as these are top choice for their customers.

  2. Shoppers with larger budgets are more likely to shop at local and online retailers. If this is you, focus your messaging on more high-end products like electronics and clothing to meet their needs.

  3. Back-to-school shoppers are relatively gender-neutral and span all age groups from 25-65. While it’s true that women still make up the majority of back-to-school shoppers, 48% of low-budget and 47% of electronics shoppers are male. So, if you target females exclusively, or address moms in your messaging, you could be missing out on nearly half of your potential customers.
  4. To target and engage different customer segments with relevant messaging, consider tapping into Zeta’s custom audiences such as Back to School, Parenting, Education Types, and Education Level.

Run a Winning Back-To-School Campaign in 2023

Winning over back-to-school shoppers requires a deep understanding of their demographics, shopping preferences, and budget constraints. By leveraging the insights from our study, such as the preferred shopping destinations, and specific characteristics of different customer segments, you can create targeted campaigns that resonate with your audience.

If you would like to maximize the impact of your back-to-school marketing efforts and engage back-to-school shoppers even more effectively, the Zeta Marketing Platform can help. With Zeta, you can create tailored experiences that will help you engage and convert back-to-school shoppers. You can see the power of the platform for yourself by booking a personalized demo.


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