Retailers are shifting to programmatic mobile advertising to reach back to school shoppers this year

August 29, 2016

Tags: 2016, Industry Perspectives

Kira Roytburg
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Per the most recent US census, there are about 50 million children between ages 6 and 17 in the United States[1]. Fifty million kids and their families are participating in the so-called Back to School shopping spree, the largest annual US retail event after winter holiday shopping. The National Retail Federation estimates that more than $75.8 billion will be spent by families in the US this year, with over a third shopping online[2].

As busy moms and dads shop to ensure kids are fully prepared for the school year, many retailers are present on mobile phones and tablets to remind shoppers about their brands. Here at MoPub we’re observing spend patterns for retailers across the more than 45K apps on MoPub Marketplace, our mobile real-time bidding exchange — and there’s a lot of good news for programmatic spend. First, the reach is outstanding: in the first 3 weeks of August 2016, retail marketers reached over 78 million unique devices in the US through MoPub’s exchange.

Second, in reaching such a large number of households, marketers tripled their spend this year compared to 2015 ; in fact, 49% of impressions on MoPub Marketplace in the first three weeks of August came from retail advertisers[3]. And finally, five of the top 20 spenders on MoPub Marketplace during this time were large retailers.

back to school programmatic spend

In terms of ad formats, there are some shifts as well. While banners were the most popular format for retail marketers with the highest spend and impressions during the first three weeks of August on MoPub Marketplace, interstitials, native, and mRectangle all shared second place. However, performance was highest for interstitials and native. This shows  a significant performance improvement for native in the first three weeks of August 2016 compared to the same time period last year, with a 63% increase in average CTR for the same retail brands. Both native and interstitials had 4X higher CTRs compared to banners, with CTRs ranging from 2.5% to over 8% in some cases. This data suggests that marketers are getting better at making their native inventory work harder for them.

Even better news: there’s still time for smart publishers to take advantage of this spend. Back to school spending will continue until kids are fully equipped with supplies, clothing, electronics, footwear, and furniture. According to Mastercard research last year, the hottest shopping day was August 29th, and the season continued until September 19th.[4] With nearly a month still left in back to school spending, if last year’s trend continues, retail brands will continue capitalizing on the trend of users spending significantly more time in apps, pushing for larger in-app budgets like those that we’ve seen on MoPub Marketplace. App publishers should seize this as an opportunity to enable programmatic demand to bring high quality relevant ads to their users. The back to school season can provide an all around win for users, advertisers, and app publishers.


[1] US Census, 2015.
[2] A Look at Back-to-School Supplies Lists and Online Shopping, National Retail Federation, 2016.
[3] MoPub Marketplace internal data, August 1-21, 2016 vs. August 1-21, 2015.
[4] Connected Kids Contributed to Steady Growth in Back-to-School Sales , Mastercard, 2015.




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