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True to the overall theme of the year, the 2020 Back To School season has remained unpredictable, not only bringing uncertainty to parents, students and teachers alike, but also marketers as they grapple with how to approach this season and the upcoming holidays in such a volatile climate. Further, minority families are preparing differently due the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on this group, delaying shopping as long as possible and hoping to gain more clarity before purchase. Brands, more than ever, need to optimize their strategy to reach different members of the household and target the right demographics as consumers continue to finalize their back to school shopping plans and move into holiday shopping.

Digital Minority Buyers Shifting to Majority Buyers

Results from a recent collaboration between Publicis Media and GlobalWebIndex (GWI) on back-to-school sentiment, show that Hispanics, pre-pandemic, made up 18% of online consumers and nearly half of them were below the age of 35. Now in the midst of the pandemic, Hispanics are shopping online more than ever. H Code reports that Hispanics in particular are shopping more in a single day vs. the general population (16% are shopping at least every day), and the number of Hispanics leaving reviews (38%) outweighs those who use review sites in their product research (36%), according to the GWI study. In a crowded online marketplace, brands will need to reevaluate whether their current strategy involves a segmented and targeted audience, especially as the ecommerce landscape continues to evolve.

Remote Schooling Provides New Opportunities for Consumer Engagement

The study also showed that the vast majority of all demographic segments support remote learning or homeschooling for the Fall, particularly among Black/AA and Hispanics. Nearly 70% of Black/AA households with school-aged children say they support or strongly support keeping all instruction online, noting this preference is due to a lack of access to health care and other social inequalities. We’re also seeing a rise in homeschooling as an option – with Hispanics making up the largest increase in students being homeschooled from 2012-2016, according to the National Household Education Surveys Program. Due to COVID-19, we’ll also see more families opt for homeschool as an option because of the flexibility it allows in schedule and teaching, particularly for parents working from home. Many families who were suddenly faced with a remote learning system in the spring are now better prepared for remote learning with items like monitors, desks and computer accessories top-of-mind to make the most of a full-time remote learning or homeschool structure for their children.

Minority Shoppers Focused on Family Unit

As minority families prepare for and embrace either a full-time or hybrid remote learning experience, families will be more involved than ever in their children’s education and daily learning activities. The study showed that Black/AA and Hispanic families are 15% more likely to spend on outside resources such as online webinars and learning centers, which would act as an educational supplement for both their children and themselves. Not every parent is a natural teacher and online resources can go a long way in making the remote learning experience more comfortable for both parties. Brands who can appeal to the family as a unit may yield more success in winning their hard-earned dollar. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that less than one in five Black workers and roughly one in six Hispanic workers are able to work from home. This means they may have to rely on extended relatives to support the remote learning environment for their children. For example, grandparents within the household will be looking for ways to contribute to their grandchildren’s education with these online resources and providing the right tools will allow brands to gain a leg up on their competitors.

As we approach the Fall’s many seasonal shopping moments, brands and marketers need to keep their audience strategy top-of-mind as they look to remain agile in an already ever-evolving marketplace. They should be asking themselves, “which demographics am I targeting and why?” or “how can I reach multiple members of the same household,” especially when appealing to minorities who already have demonstrated considerable buying power in the digital space. This means that constant optimization of audience targeting, genuine and relatable messaging, and understanding of the household unit is going to be critical as the shopping season moves from a back-to-school mindset to holiday.

Author: Christian Garcia, Project Manager, Commerce Strategy, Publicis Commerce

This piece was written in partnership with Jennifer Garcia, Senior Vice President of Multicultural at Cultural Quotient – Publicis Media’s Multicultural Practice.