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It’s back-to-school time: Target top audiences this season

August 04, 2022
A student in a classroom working on his tablet.

August is the unofficial transition month for children in many countries. After spending two months not thinking about school, they’re finally ready to start prepping for the next year ahead. That means they need school supplies and a new wardrobe. Having an active online presence for retailers is especially important during this time as students and their parents prepare for the year ahead. Microsoft Advertising Insights examined past query trends and used forecasting tools to predict how this back-to-school season will differ from previous years. For the United States market, we saw huge demand for two categories in 2022: Apparel and Consumer Electronics.1 Leverage Microsoft’s ad products to help you build a full-funnel campaign. Read on for tips on narrowing down the right audiences with our native solutions as well as tips and tricks to retarget them later on in their search journey.

Retailers specializing in Apparel or Consumer Electronics will soar this back-to-school season

According to a report by eMarketer, Computer and Consumer Electronics and Apparel and Accessories categories will make up more than 40% of all US ecommerce sales in 2022.2 A similar pattern can be applied for back-to-school (BTS) spending, with the top three categories by spend last season including: Electronics, Clothing, and Shoes (in order).3

Of all electronics, laptops are the most frequently bought (48% of BTS shoppers bought in 2021), followed by calculators.3 Searches for Consumer Electronics were highest in late August to mid-September (August 28—September 18) in both 2020 and 2021.1 This timeline aligns well with what our forecasting model predicted for 2022. Searches are expected to ramp around August 22 this year and are expected to grow 23% YoY in total.1

2022 Consumer Electronics search volume forecast graphic.

Along with Electronics, Apparel spend is expected to soar this year. Clothing is the number one most expected Apparel purchase, as consumers prepare to go back in-person for learning.1 According to a recent survey by Civic Science, 67% of all consumers who plan to buy school supplies this year will include clothing in their purchases. Search activity for Clothing will start a bit earlier than Electronics, with peak searches predicted to hit around September 19.1 Summer and holiday sales (such as Labor Day) will play an important role in driving online search activity as well, so be sure you expand your keyword list during key seasonal weekends for BTS season.

2022 Consumer Electronics search volume forecast graphic.

Three key audiences to include in your targeting for back-to-school season

Now that you know timelines and categories that should pop in the next month, let’s focus on what audiences you should be focusing on. Microsoft Advertising Insights found that there are three key markets to target for BTS: Teachers, parents, and degree students.1

  • When targeting teachers, make sure you account for a heavily skewed female audience (84% vs. 16%). Overlapping interests amongst teachers included: Lesson planning and resourcing, motivating students, virtual learning prep, and classroom safety.
  • When targeting parents, over half of consumers (59%) are over 35. Their interests overlap with teachers in safety requirements, but differ in places such as: Financial planning, homeschooling research, and school supply shopping.
  • Degree students hold a nice balance between teachers and parents in terms of interest targeting. Like other audiences, they are researching heavily about COVID safety and testing. They also explore career and financial planning resources as well as school projects and homework help tools.
Image of the three key audiences to reach during back to school: Teachers, parents, and degree students.

The best way to reach these key audiences this season is on the Microsoft Audience Network. You can use their interests to set up relevant In-market Audiences for them, and target people ready to buy by aligning your product messaging to their needs.1 Using the Microsoft Audience Network with your search campaigns can help you boost your performance across all three stages of the funnel: Awareness, consideration, and conversion.1 In fact, we found that 63% of users who do not initially convert on a native ad have the probability of engaging with that retailer’s search ad in their next touchpoint.

Microsoft Audience Network characteristics and examples of views on different devices.


Curious about other category trends we’re seeing across our marketplace from a search or native perspective? Luckily, if you love insights, we have a lot more coming in 2022! Visit the Microsoft Advertising Insights content hub, which is updated weekly.

[1] Insights, “Microsoft Advertising Insights search data 2019-2022”, May 24, 2022,
[2] eMarketer, “Ecommerce Statistics: Industry benchmarks & growth”, July 20,
[3] NRF 2022, “Retail Survey on Back to School”, July 1,


  • Megan Barnicle


    Megan Barnicle
  • Jena Yost


    Jena Yost

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