Back-to-School 2020 Brings New Opportunities for CPG Marketers

Back-to-school this fall will mean back-to-virtual-learning for many. Online grocery will play a key role in helping parents stock up for more lunches at home.
Updated on December 15, 2022

Across America, the fate of school in the fall is still uncertain. It varies by school district, but the options for students typically include a full-time return to school, full-time cyber learning, or a hybrid model that involves spending part of the week in school and part of the week learning online. Parents unhappy with these options are also exploring other alternatives, including hiring their own private teachers and homeschooling.

Whatever parents ultimately decide, one thing is certain: more children will be learning at home than ever before this fall. This has obvious impacts on the kinds of back to school supplies that will be bought – electronics and furniture sales are likely to increase – but what about CPG?

Virtual learners will be working up very real appetites

There’s been a lot of talk about how to prepare for virtual learning, but most conversations don’t include the issue of food. Consider these stats: According to National School Lunch Program data, nearly 100,000 schools and institutions serve school lunches to 29.6 million students every day. 7.7 million of those are full price lunches. Using an average elementary school lunch cost of $2.48, that means that more than $19 million was spent by families on school lunches during the year.

With more students doing some or all of their schooling at home this fall, parents will now be responsible for snacks and meals that were previously handled in school. Which means that a portion of that $19 million spent on in-school lunches will be redirected to the grocery store.

The rise of online grocery

Parents will be stocking their pantries in a new way this school year, though. Our consumer survey exploring the impacts of social distancing showed that 22% of Americans discovered purchasing groceries online during the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak and are likely to continue doing so.

online shopping forms discovered during peak of COVID-19 

45% of respondents said they plan to purchase more groceries online in the next few months than they did during quarantine.

products people plan to purchase more or less of online in the future

Anecdotal evidence supports these findings, as our analysts here at Criteo have also seen a sales spike in the snacks category recently, and expect that to continue into the school year.

What CPG marketers can do 

Busy parents juggling work-from-home and school-from-home will need their grocery shopping to be as painless as possible. CPG marketers who can reach them with the right messages have a real opportunity to win loyal customers during back to school and throughout the year. Here’s how to make the most of it:

Find new customers.

With total time spent on internet-connected devices up 81% year over year, now is a great time to explore new channels like CTV to find new customers.

Know your audience.

Show ads to consumers actively looking for products similar to yours, as they are highly likely to be interested in you. Criteo can help you target audiences that are in-market for 800+ product categories. And don’t forget to re-engage your recent buyers with your back-to-school offerings. In our survey, 83% of consumers would continue to buy from new stores they discovered during the coronavirus outbreak.

Determine whether your audience is online or off.

While 45% of Americans said they plan to buy more groceries online for the next few months, there are plenty of shoppers who will return to brick-and-mortar stores. Think about how to connect with your shoppers both online AND offline. For those on the go, make sure that your mobile and app experiences are optimized for conversions.

Launch a Retail Media campaign.

With Criteo’s Retail Media Platform, you can increase visibility for your snack and lunch-related products on your retail partners’ websites with sponsored product and display ads.

Keep messaging relevant.

In addition to native sponsored product ads, consider a Retail Media Commerce Display campaign with a back-to-school-specific messaging and creative to match the customer’s current interests.

Use Offsite Ads to complement.

This allows you to retarget partner retailers’ website visitors on other publisher sites. Be sure to promote SKUs that are likely to matter most to shoppers for their snack/lunch needs.

Focus on the mobile experience.

As more retailers focus on app ad placements, make sure your budgets account for increasing app traffic.

Preparing for Back-to-School 2020: How Criteo Helps Advertisers

Whether you’re trying to reach new shoppers or re-engage ones who visited you earlier in the year, Criteo has the best-in-class teams, tools, and technology to help businesses of all sizes navigate the changing retail landscape as we head back to school.​

The Criteo Ad Platform

Offers powerful dynamic retargeting and audience creation tools across a pool of two billion active monthly shoppers around the world and 1000+ targeting options for audiences – all based on actual purchase data.

Criteo Retail Media

Allows brands to build ads across premium retailer websites and personalize those ads to each shopper’s preferences, ensuring that ads are relevant across retail partners.

Criteo Omnichannel

Syncs customer data from email lists and point-of-sale systems to online ads, building a seamless customer journey across offline and online touchpoints.

Criteo Mobile App Advertising

Generates more app installs, app engagement, and app conversions with powerful, in-app advertising technology.

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