Big chance for brands to inspire in final days of August as UK heads back to reality

In this Article

30% in searches for “school” related items.

48% increase in interest in “suit jacket” and “tie”.

Searches for “laptop” up by a quarter.

The last days in August will offer brands a huge chance to engage with consumers that are turning their attention away from the summer holidays and coming back to reality ahead of the new academic year.

eBay Advertising’s insights reveal a big uplift in searches for “back to school” and “back to work” items in the final three days of the month last year, as shoppers made a last minute bid to prepare for the Autumn season ahead.

And with fresher’s week fast approaching, the new university year also drives an increase in searches for uni essentials, highlighting the scope of the opportunity for brands across a range of sectors at this time of year.

The back to school bounce

Parents may have had weeks – even months – to prepare, but the final days before the new term are set to experience a big uptick in interest in school items, as parents scramble to get their children school ready.

In the final days of August last year – between 29th and 31st of the month – there was a significant uplift in searches for back to school items on, giving brands a big opportunity to tap into a last minute consumer mind set. Searches for “school uniform” surged by 65%, while searches for “lunch box,” “pencil case” and “school bag” were up 46%, 30% and 24%, respectively. 

And even after term was well underway in the second week of September, there were still rich opportunities for brands to engage, with over 11,000 searches per day for “school” items on

The return to work rise

For every return to the classroom, there’s a return to the office after summer holidays, which could equate to a double opportunity for brands. In the final three days of August last year, there was an increase of almost 50% in searches for both “suit jacket” and “tie” on 

There was also an overall rise of 24% in searches for “high heels” on, an increase that was most pronounced amongst women between the ages of 35 and 44, whose searches rocketed by 83% in the final days of the summer holiday season. The same age group of female shoppers registered an increase of over 80% in searches for ties, suggesting that some consumers are buying ‘back to reality’ items for all the family.

The university uplift

Once the back to reality rush has abated, brands have yet another opportunity to engage shoppers out to buy the practicalities for a new academic year.

In the penultimate weekend in September last year, as students approached the new university term, there was a spike in searches for the essentials for living away from home. Between 18th and 20th September 2015, searches for “cutlery” and “bed sheets” rose by 29%, while interest in “frying pan” rose by almost a third (31%).

And it’s not just everyday items that undergo an uplift at this time: searches for “laptop” were up by 25% over the same weekend, as shoppers invested in tech to make the journey to university.

Rob Bassett, Advertising Director at eBay in the UK believes that late August and September shopping is more complex – and potentially more lucrative – than brands may realise, as this palpable shift to a ‘back to reality’ attitude extends across sectors and demographics.

“In particular, the fact that so many shoppers are searching for back to school items once term has already begun demonstrates that brands can’t just target based on what they think shoppers are interested in at a certain time, but must use observed insights to know what they’re in the market to buy. Our Back to University advanced targeting segment allows brands to do just that - and tap into an estimated 40% of the UK’s 2.3 million students.”

The end of the summer is often a ‘transition’ time for brands, as they look forward towards the beginning of the festive season. But marketers need to remember that shoppers are active all year round, and they risk missing out on valuable share of wallet if they don’t identify and target different shopping mindsets. The beauty of online platforms is that they facilitate precision targeting at scale, meaning brands can engage a broad audience with messages that chime with their specific motivations.
Pauline Robson, Director, MediaCom