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Back to School Shopping and eCommerce

As the summer winds down and a new school year is on the horizon, it’s time for parents to get their children ready for another year of learning. Over the past few years, the event of “back to school” shopping has turned into a lengthy retail holiday of its own, with parents expected to spend over $26 billion dollars on back to school shopping in 2013. 54% of this spending go towards apparel (including shoes), 31% to electronics, and 15% to school supplies.


So what is the role of back to school eCommerce? Here are a few things to know…


  • Mobile and tablets are now a key component in back to school shopping – Many parents are turning to their mobile and tablet devices not only to shop online but also for comparative shopping. Budget-conscious parents often check online retailers while back to school shopping at physical stores to make sure they are getting a good deal. In fact, 37% of parents stated they will do more comparison shopping online and on mobile devices for back to school than last year.


  • Digital coupons are becoming more important to parents – Sometimes overlooked in the past by some parents, coupons are making a bit of a comeback. Gone is the process of scouring newspapers and circulars for coupons as modern parents have begun loading coupons directly onto their rewards cards or to be scanned on their mobile devices. Omni-channel retailers are taking note and making these promotions easy and accessible for parents, even for parents who aren’t very tech-savvy.


  • Back-to-school shopping is starting early – In a recent survey by the NRF, 49% of parents stated they will begin their back to school shopping at least one month before school starts, with just 22% of parents set to begin their shopping one to two weeks before school starts. Only 5% of parents will go back to school shopping the week school starts or later. With so many parents starting back to school shopping early and at different times it appears retailers can deploy multiple promotions to attract a wide array of customers to their site and stores.


  • Teens spend their own money on back to school – In a recent survey by, parents expect teens to spend an average of $44 of their own money online on back to school items in 2013. Although brands should be cautious, an effective strategy for marketing to and reaching these teens can be opt-in text message marketing campaigns, which have a high open rate, especially if the text message contains a relevant coupon code or promotion.


  • Don’t forget about back to college students – While back to school initiatives are often targeted at parents with children of younger ages, parents of a college student actually spent $220 more last year sending their children back to college than back to school parents. Dads also tend to be the big spenders when it comes to back to college students, spending almost $250 more on average than moms. Depending on the audience and customers of a brand, a back to school marketing effort may not apply – but back to college marketing could be an applicable and successful initiative.


In conclusion, back to school shopping continues to evolve. Mobile and tablets are now becoming a major component for shopping online or showrooming, and parents are becoming more accustomed to digital offers and promotions. Brands should consider multiple promotions targeted at multiple customer segments as both parents and students will be making back to school purchases.  Although it may not receive the notoriety of the holiday season, back to school can be a key time of year for retailers to grow their presence and brand both online and offline.