As August quickly approaches, back-to-school shopping is fully underway. As the second largest spending season, retailers both big and small can participate – and should. To take full advantage of this season or next, you need to know the top 2015 back-to-school shopping trends.
National Retail Federation (NRF) make this possible. In mid-July, they released their annual Back-to-School Spending Survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. In this post, we’ll look at the survey results and what we think it means for retailers like you.
Total Back-to-School Spend
The survey expects total back-to-school spending to reach $68 billion this year. While that may seem small compared to $616.1 billion for the winter holidays, back-to-school is the second largest spending season. This is a slight decrease from last year. But, according to NRF, spending has always fluctuated.
The survey breaks the $68 billion into two different groups: grades K-12 and college. NRF refers to the former as Back-to-School and the latter as Back-to-College. Planned Back-to-School spending is projected to be $24.9 billion, meaning planned Back-to-College comes in at $43.1 billion.
On average, families have spent 42% more on school items over the past 10 years. So, these slight decreases in overall totals from 2014 can be expected since families splurged last year and don’t need to replenish every year. At the same time, as the overall total decreases, certain trends are still increasing and you need to know about them.
Back-to-School Shopping Trends 2015: What You Need to Know
When it comes to back-to-school shopping, retailers need to know who’s spending the most, what items families are shopping for, where they’re buying school supplies, and when they’re shopping. The NRF’s Back-to-School Spending Survey answers all those questions for the 2015 shopping season.
Here’s what we learned and how we think you can take advantage of it:
Who’s Spending the Most for 2015 Back-to-School Shopping
Of the two groups the survey breaks down, children in grades K – 12 and college, retailers can expect more business from families shopping for back-to-college items.
Families with children in grades K -12 plan to spend, on average, $630.36 on school items. While, families plan to spend, on average, $899.18 for back-to-college.
With college students, they need bigger ticket items for college living. Think mini-refrigerators, futons, bedding, laptops, etc. New and returning college students need a lot of items to make their new home feel like they’re own. Retailers who offer these type of items need to make sure they’re going after college student shoppers.
What 2015 Back-to-School Shoppers are Buying
You can’t best serve back-to-school shoppers if you don’t know what type items are the most important to them. Your success during this season depends on whether or not you’re selling what families are looking for. If you do, you have a chance to get in on a part of the projected $68 billion.
Apparel and Electronics
Across both groups, most of families’ budgets will be spent on apparel and electronics. Apparel includes clothing and accessories, excluding shoes. Electronics includes home computers, laptops, handheld organizers, and calculators.
Back-to-College: Dorm Room Furniture
31% (up from 23.9% in 2014) of college students will live in a dorm or college housing. This increase is coupled with families planning to spend more on dorm and apartment furnishing. On average, families plan to spend $126. If you’re looking to target college shoppers, this is what they’re looking for.
Retailers selling these types of products can benefit the most from this shopping season. If you sell different types of clothing, electronics, or furniture, think about how you can create campaigns targeted towards back-to-school shoppers. Let people know that you have what they want this season.
The first step of attracting back-to-school shoppers is to actually have what they want. But, you can’t turn shoppers into buyers unless you make it easy for them to make purchases. And to do that, you need to know where consumers plan on shopping.
Historically, most consumers plan on shopping at discount stores. This still holds true, as 62% of shoppers plan on doing that. However, this percentage is the lowest market share for the category in the survey’s 13-year history!
So, where are shoppers doing their shopping instead? Online.
Online is only one of the two categories that saw positive percentage change (about 15%) increases over the past five years (other is clothing stores at 9%). A little more than one-third (35.6%) will shop online for school items.
For those that are shopping online, they’re planning to take advantage of a few key benefits that online offers:
- 9 in 10 will take advantage of retailers’ free shipping offers
- Nearly half say they will take advantage of a retailer’s buy online, pick up in store
Both of these benefits can make or break whether or not someone buys from you. It’s a competitive advantage, if a retailer can offer them. But, not all retailers are capable of providing these options. If you can, you’re going to win over more shoppers.
Learn more about these type of online selling advantages by checking out Why Retailers Need Buy Online/Pickup In Store (BOPIS).
Mobile: Smartphones and Tablets
When we’re talking about online shopping, it’s impossible to not talk about mobile trends, too. Back-to-school shoppers are using their mobile devices both before purchasing and to make a purchase, and it’s the highest use in survey history. For college shoppers specifically:
- More than three-quarters own a smart phone, and more than half own a tablet
- 41% of college shoppers will use a smartphone to research products and compare prices
- 31% of college shoppers will buy their products with their smartphones, while 35% will use their tablet
If your online store isn’t optimized for mobile shopping, you’re going to miss out on this large chunk of consumers shopping this way. They’ll buy from your competitors who do.
When 2015 Back-to-School Shoppers are Shopping
Now that you know who to target, what they’re buying, and where they’re buying from, retailers need to know when consumers are starting their back-to-school shopping.
Most shoppers, two in five, will shop at least three weeks to one month before school. Another 20% will shop at least two months before school. If you want to capture these shoppers, you’re going to have to take these trends and apply them as insight for next year.
But, if you can work fast and under pressure, you might be able to just get in on some last minute shoppers. See how:
Procrastinating shoppers, as NRF names them, are gaining on early birds. This year, 30% of back-to-school shoppers will wait until one or two weeks before school to start shopping, up from 25% last year.
That’s a big increase. And, it means that some retailers still have a chance to advertise and win over back-to-school shoppers.
So, what are you waiting for?
Check out these articles to keep reading about 2015 Back-to-School Trends:
- 10 Reasons Why Mobile Will Make or Break Your Back-to-School Success [Infographic]
- How Merchants Can Prepare for the 2015 Back-to-School Shopping Seasons