Today is officially the start of summer! Classes only just ended, but believe it or not, the back-to-school season is upon us. Sun’s out, surf’s up, heat is rising—and yet retailers everywhere have their sights set on fall. Despite the long days and beautiful weather, marketers can’t afford to keep their heads in the clouds.

10 days until back-to-school shopping season kicks off. The shopping window spans from July through September, giving retailers three full months to capture consumer attention and capitalize on this substantial spending spree. Back-to-school is the second most popular shopping season of the year, after the winter holidays. And this year, consumer spend is expected to surpass $80B! Get ready, marketers. It’s time to seize your share.

However, before you get started, you first need to know who to target. For back-to-school, your key audiences include college students (and their parents), and families with students in grades K-12. College students need to plan for a life on campus, in a dorm, away from their parents, with a rigid class schedule and active social life. They require the most “stuff” — from laptops and dorm TVs to a trendy new wardrobe and stylish new bedspread. For younger students, there’s a huge focus on school supplies. Every summer, teachers plan a shopping list of school essentials—notebooks, binders, folders, and highlighters. These purchases are a no brainer for parents. In fact, 66% of parents will buy more than is required. And don’t be fooled. It’s not only the college students that care about their outfit choices. Even the younger students are going to want a trendy new wardrobe!

So, when will consumers start flocking to the stores to secure their school essentials? Before they even step foot inside a brick-and-mortar location, they are likely to do their homework (yes, pun intended). In fact, 65% of consumers will research a product online before ever stepping foot in a store. And the online search starts early! Last year, retailers reported the highest online click-through rates for apparel and footwear in July and August. But they didn’t see a spike in actual in-store sales until late August, into September. Although consumers might start early, 33% won’t finish until after the school year starts. This means marketers really need a consistent brand presence throughout the entire summer.

Because the back-to-school shopper journey moves from clicks-to-bricks, marketers should consider online browsing and web activity to be a strong indicator of future in-store purchases. PebblePost uses Programmatic Direct Mail® to help digital marketers transform real-time website intent into customized in-home, tangible brand interactions that convert. Marketers can continue the conversation via a relevant, longer-lasting impression—and consumers can then take action on their terms and at their convenience.

Consumers are more responsive when they have something tangible in their hands. Tangible media is easier to remember and better able to motivate consumers. In fact, 70% of consumers re-engage with a brand after receiving an ad in the mail, and 66% make a purchase as a result of direct mail.

Don’t forget the discounts! 43% of families will shop for sales and 32% will compare prices online to try to find the best deal. 63% of consumers are tempted to start shopping early because they don’t want to miss out on the biggest savings.

As you start planning your back-to-school marketing strategy, consider making a tangible difference with Programmatic Direct Mail®. It’s Digital, now with feeling. And with the three-month shopping window starting in a little over a week, there’s no time to waste. Extend your flight through September to not only benefit from the spike in apparel sales, but also align with Labor Day sales and seasonal changes supporting the shift to fall fashion. Convert browsers into buyers and help push back-to-school shoppers over the finish line, from online, to in-home, to in-store.

Use that fall momentum to propel your brand into the #1 shopping season of the year—hello, holidays.

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