The 3 Audiences of Back-to-School Shopping

What social analytics can tell us about who actually shops for school gear

Every fall, families across the world stock up on items they’ll need for the new school year. Knowing this, retailers of everything from school supplies and backpacks to clothes and shoes vie to capture as much of this market as possible.
But it can sometimes feel like these retailers are shooting in the dark in terms of knowing how to attract the right audience. Do parents decide what items to buy? Or the students themselves? Do families fill their carts at physical stores? Or purchase with a click on their phones? When do shoppers start to plan their purchases? Do all the types of back-to-school items have the same audience?
Without knowing the answers to these questions, it’s impossible for retailers to be confident that they’re performing the right activities to take full advantage of the second biggest shopping period of the year. How can you plan a successful campaign if you don’t know who to target and how, when and where to engage with them?
Luckily, retailers don’t have to trust their guts. Social media offers an almost unlimited stream of information about how consumers talk about, think through, and carry out back-to-school shopping.
Crimson Hexagon analyzed millions of posts from last year’s back-to-school season to help retailers better understand the school-shopping audience.
The full report is a must-read for anyone in the retail industry, but its major finding can be summarized succinctly: back-to-school shopping isn’t a single entity; it’s three:

  • Supplies
  • Clothes
  • Backpacks

Each of these categories has its own audience with their own unique interests, optimal engagement times and preferences. 
Here is an infographic running through some of the highlights.


If retailers want to effectively target and attract online back-to-school shoppers, they must have an accurate composition of the audience. Our analysis of the social conversation surrounding online back-to-school shopping uncovered the three distinct audiences outlined above. When retailers build (or perform a post-mortem on) their back-to-school campaigns, this breakdown should serve as their foundation. 
You can get the full report here.

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