The Truth about Dads and Back-to-School Shopping: A Deeper Dive into the Marketing Data

By August 1, 2017Analytics, Insight

This year, I’m taking the back-to-school shopping duties over for my wife, Kristin (who usually does it). I’ll be contributing to the more than $857.18 billion eMarketer is projecting consumers will spend this year for the back-to-school season, a 4.0% increase over last year.

With iPhone in hand, I started searching out things my daughters might need or want. Nothing grabbed me. Was this some kind of huge fail by back-to-school marketers? Was I not their target audience? Here’s what I found out after a little investigation:

  • I’m a little late to the party: According to MarketingLand, 13% of shoppers had completed their purchases by this time in August 2016. I am one of the 22% of laggards who hasn’t started.
  • I better check my bank account balance: I am looking at a potential price tag of $917 when all is said and done ($1,300 if you have a college-aged student), according to Rubicon project.
  • I should charge my smartphone: PSB Research and the Rubicon Project reported that 60% of parents planned to make one purchase via mobile, and 30% planned to do at least 25% of their back-to-school shopping on mobile in 2016. 47% of K-12 and 40% of college parents said they use at least 3 shopping apps, and 71% of parents planned to use retailer apps before they made a purchase.

I’m solidly represented here at a high level. Ready to spend, browsing over mobile, clicking on the occasional ad. However, pretty much every ad I was served online showed me happy moms and kids shopping for school supplies. Where were the dads?

In her MediaPost article, Back-to-School Mom Myths, Mary Gilbert dispelled some of the common marketing misconceptions around moms and their back-to-school shopping habits. In this post, we take a look at the available data and do something similar for dads. After all, when it comes to back-to-school shopping, dads matter too.

Truth #1: Dads Do More Back-to-School Shopping Than Moms (Sometimes)

While moms still do the lion’s share of back-to-school shopping, dads are a demographic worthy of a marketing campaign. According to the Rubicon project survey results, dads are more involved than ever with K-12 back-to-school shopping. The segment where they spend the most money? Technology purchases.

Additionally, some subsets of dads are spending even more than moms. Mintel’s 2016 Back to School Shopping Report showed that millennial dads spent more last year than 52% of their millennial mom partners. They place a premium on value over price.

Truth #2: Dads Are Mobile Too

Just like MediaPost’s Mary Gilbert and the 60% of moms who use their smartphones while inside the store, dads use mobile when shopping for back-to-school too. In fact, they outpace moms in mobile purchasing: 41% percent of dads said they would do at least a quarter of their online shopping on a mobile device in 2016, compared to just 24% of moms.

Truth #3: Dads Love to Click on Ads

The data is in: Smart marketers should be hyper-targeting dads in their mobile and online banner ads. Consider these findings from the Rubicon project:

  • 51% of the dads have clicked on a mobile ad
  •  35% have purchased based on a mobile ad
  • 56% have clicked on an online ad, and
  • 38% have purchased based on an online ad within the past week

Truth #4: Dads Don’t Clip Coupons

Dads don’t ask for directions when they’re lost. Apparently, they also don’t clip coupons because it makes them look cheap. According to a Young & Rubicam study of 8,000 North American dads, 60% don’t use coupons. As a result, they typically spend $250 more than moms on back-to-school shopping.

Truth #5: Dads Love Brand Names

Dads are also twice as likely as moms to buy brand names that they trust, regardless of the price. According to Young & Rubicam, the brands they trust the most are Apple, UnderArmour, Nike, Netflix, iPad, Lexus, Lego, and Levi’s.

The Takeaway for Marketers

For back-to-school shopping, dads certainly do matter too.

However, the specific lesson here can be turned into a universal lesson about data: Understanding data at the highest level is important, but diving deeper can uncover additional opportunities. It’s also important to examine your assumptions about what you think you know, and test to see if the data supports those assumptions.

This blog has been updated from a version which appeared previously on August 16, 2016.

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