Online Retailers Profit Big off Back-to-School Shopping

Back to school and college spending is expected to reach $75.8 billion in total spending this year, this spending season is second only to the winter holidays. Every year it seems classroom supply sheet gets longer and longer. This year 77% of families are being required to buy supplies for the classroom. The combination of educational tools, clothes, shoes, electronics, personal care items and food make up the spend categories for the back-to-school season. The two largest categories are clothing and electronics.

Each year the National Retail Federation (NRF) conducts a survey of parents to gather in-depth information about their back-to-school buying habits. This year the study revealed that although the economy is up from past years and discretionary spending continues to rise, families are still taking the time to spend their money wisely. While families are buying savvier, there are more families buying due to the boom of millennials with school age children. This combination has made 2016 the highest sales year to date.

Parents are Following the Savings

This annual season brings an expectation of sales and offers that parents are looking to take advantage of in their purchasing journey. Up from last year’s 43%, 48% of parents reported being influenced by coupons. 39% of families report they will take advantage of in-store promotions, while 33% use advertising inserts to complete their school shopping.

“When it comes to big spending events such as back-to-school and back-to-college, families are being very savvy in how they tackle their lists,” Prosper Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow said. “Families are slowly completing their shopping this season while taking advantage of expected promotions that will continue through Labor Day, and spreading their budget as necessary.”

Shopping Online Skyrockets

A major trend of 2016 is that 80% of back-to-school and college shoppers will take advantage of FREE SHIPPING.

The number of families shopping online continues to grow as well. 46% of parents plan to shop online, a 10% increase over last year’s 36% of online shoppers. Free shipping and pick up in store are strong contributions to this increase. Men were found to be twice as likely to expedite the shipping of their orders as women. Parents plan to purchase from an average of 3 websites. The three major types of online retailers include super-centers, office supply, and clothing retailers. Roughly a third (34%) of back to school/ college shopping has been done online this year.

What Retailers should take from this study?

As a marketer, we would encourage retailers that fall into these popular back-to-school categories to treat it much like the winter holiday season. Plan ahead with your marketing, allocate specific funds to extend special offers to customer and get your message in front of them. Make sure your website and social sites are up to date and support all your sale messages. Parents are avidly shopping online via mobile devices as well as tablets and computers. The benefits of buying online have begun to far outweigh the cons and as Millennials have become the parents it is often their go to option. Continue to see what works well for your current Millennial customers and strive to strengthen your marketing with them going forward.

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