Back to School Got Delayed: College Students and Parents Wait for Black Friday and Cyber Monday
Back to school isn’t over yet! The National Retail Federation estimates that U.S. American families will spend over $80 billion this year, and online shopping influences back-to-school shoppers significantly. While school may be back in session, it turns out a large amount of back-to-school shopping will occur as late as November. Recent research from GlobalWebIndex found over 40 percent of college students and their parents are waiting for Black Friday and Cyber Monday to buy college essentials like supplies, tech equipment and more. The findings are part of a back-to-school survey of over 1,100 U.S. college students and parents of college students.
Satisfying different target groups such as parents and college students can be one of the biggest challenges for brands and marketers, especially as the season lingers on. As developing a bulletproof marketing strategy is key for reaching all shoppers and deal-hunters on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, marketers must keep in mind some facts about college students and their parents. What do consumers focus on? How can companies prepare to make the most of their consumers’ needs, even during the busy holiday season?
Over 40 percent of college students say they consult their parents when deciding which tech equipment and college essentials to buy, while the majority of parents (58 percent) prefer to buy the brands their child likes — which is lucky for students given the differences in preferred tech brands. Parents’ top three brand favorites are Samsung, HP and Dell, while students prefer Apple over any other brand, followed by Samsung and HP. It's important for marketers to understand this difference — where parents control the wallet more than half of the time, but allow students to make the brand decision 58 percent of the time.
Despite nearly 39 percent of U.S. college students reporting they're funding their tuition and expenses primarily with student loans, more than one in four (27 percent) estimate they spent at least $500 to prepare for the school year. Fifty-six percent of parents say they will be their child’s main source of funding for personal expenses throughout their college career, and over 50 percent of parents are financing the technology devices their children require and desire. Some parents set money aside in advance to minimize the mounting financial pressure when the back-to-school season approaches.
What This Means for Brands and Agencies
While half of school spending occurs in stores, according to Deloitte’s 2018 Back-to-School Survey, online search is often the start of the consumer's journey. Here, potential customers, including student shoppers and parent buyers, look for deals, recommendations, reviews and compare prices. In order to stay on top of the game, retailers must understand this audience and create truly targeted campaigns that attract consumers when over 40 percent of them are making their big purchases on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
It's important that brands and agencies don’t base their targeting solely on age or gender demographics. They should also focus on behaviors and specifics such as needs and wants of current college students and varying budgets, brand preferences, and parental influence. Otherwise, stereotypes and assumptions of large target groups can miss an important portion of buyers — in this case, 40 percent of shoppers!
College students are one of many diverse and complex segments, therefore, a new marketing approach is needed: If marketers understand different wants, behaviors and preferences, they're able to create better targeted, humanized campaigns that resonate with specific consumer groups and tap into their spending budgets. In continued back-to-school shopping and seasonal sales, retailers that provide attractive offers targeted to parent budgets and student brand preferences will be the ones that win.
Katie Gilsenan is a senior trends analyst at GlobalWebIndex, a provider of digital analytics and audience insights tools and trends.