As summer was drawing to a close, Allison Mooney, Editor-in-Chief, Think with Google and Head of Trends & Insights, and Jordan Rost, Analytical Insights Marketing, Google, took a look at back-to-school shopping trends across Google and YouTube. Online video marketers who read ReelSEO will want to study up on these trends – because the back to school season is becoming the unofficial start to holiday shopping.

For example, 15 percent of consumers had already started shopping for the holiday season in July, according to a Google consumer survey, and 5 percent more were expected to start before Labor Day. Looking at last year’s Google Search trends, the authors saw that apparel searches started rising in July and continued an upward climb through December. Marketers now have an earlier look at what consumers might be interested in this holiday season, and that means more chances to capture interest with ads, promotions, discounts and more.

Back to school chart 1

YouTube Creators Are The New Influencers for Millennials

More marketers have been focusing specific back-to-school efforts on the college set, and for good reason. These students and their parents drive the biggest back-to-school spending, and the National Retail Federation found that it’s up 10 percent from last year. Young adults headed off to college are about to make a lot of purchasing decisions that they’ve never made before – and these are big opportunities for brands to win new and loyal customers.

To decide what to bring, college students are turning to haul videos on YouTube. These videos, featuring shoppers with their latest finds, started trending a few years back and are gaining in popularity. According to Google/YouTube data:

  • Searches for “back to school haul” on YouTube are up 70 percent this year.
  • Searches for “dorm hauls” on YouTube increased more than 2 times in the first 10 days of August year-over-year.
  • YouTube creators are getting ahead of the game. Compared to 2013, twice as many back-to-school haul videos were posted in the first seven months of the year.

Dorm Haul Video Searches on The Increase

Back to school chart 2

Another source of inspiration for students is dorm tour videos. In these, students show how they turned a small, impersonal space into a place they’re proud to call home.

  • “Dorm tour” searches on YouTube are rapidly trending with searches up 1.7x this August as compared to last year.
  • “Dorm tour” has some interesting correlations that hint at consumer interests, including brand affinities (“covergirl and olay”), beauty tips (“eyeliner on top lid”) and evasion techniques (“ways to look sick”). 

Back to school chart 3

Brands are getting in on this action, too. Target launched a YouTube video series called Best Year Ever that gives tips for designing dorm or off-campus spaces. Hosted by four YouTube stars, Todrick Hall, Mikey Bolts, Tiffany Garcia and Ann Le, it’s running on both Target’s YouTube channel and the stars’ own pages. So far, there have been over 3.2 million views combined.

Aeropostale recently worked with another YouTube creator, Bethany Mota, on a room design line. This is a smart move. Mota is an influencer for millennials – her YouTube fans often ask about her style – and her back-to-school videos are among her most popular. Three of her 15 most-watched videos of all time (with a total of 15.7 million views) cover back to school, and her latest has 2.5x more likes per view than the average for her regular August videos.

On Campus, Smartphones are More Essential Than TVs

So, what’s the must-have tech for students? In their article, Mooney and Rost say its smartphones. They’re as essential to college kids as the snooze button.

  • Smartphones rank as the most popular electronic device owned by college students, according to Deloitte.
  • People searching for “dorm” are also searching for “mobile” more than either “computer” or “tablet.” This is a big shift from four years ago, according to Google Data.
  • Back-to-school searches in the mobile and wireless category are up 32 percent, according to Google Data.

Mobile devices are even becoming the new TVs on college campuses. According to a Google Consumer Survey conducted in August, college students are 30 times more likely to list a phone as their favorite device than a TV. Looking to save space and money, students are using their mobile phones for networked gaming, streaming videos and more. We can see this trend in views of those dorm haul videos on YouTube.

  • As of mid-August, 43 percent of views of haul videos on YouTube happened on mobile devices. That’s 1.5x the mobile share of views in January, according to Google Data.
  • Mobile trails only TV as the platform that has the longest view time per view of haul videos, exceeding computer totals by 15 percent, according to Google Data.

A Video Marketing Cheat Sheet for The Holiday Season

Since back to school can be seen as the unofficial start to the holidays and a great bellwether of trends, here are the lessons that Mooney and Rost shared in their article:

  • To capture interest throughout this time, keep your campaigns going strong.
  • Adapt your holiday plans based on what you’ve learned from back-to-school campaigns.
  • Make sure you’re thinking about mobile constantly (read Google’s Mobile Playbook).
  • See what’s big on YouTube and look to popular creators as potential spokespeople.
  • Share tips and tricks on using your products in creative ways.
  • Gear promotions and sales to capture interest in products that save space, time and money.

Get it? Got it? Good.