Back-to-School Shopping Trends Retailers Need to Know
The back-to-school (BTS) shopping season is one the busiest times of the year for retailers and consumers. Between August and September, many retailers will be working to drive parents to brick-and-mortar and online stores through competitive promotions, and parents will be laser-focused on getting the best deals while maximizing their limited shopping time. But with parents confronted by a range of choices and concerns, how can retailers effectively drive interest and traffic to their stores and products? Our annual back-to-school survey sheds light on how moms and dads are approaching this major shopping event.
Time or Money?
One of the major dilemmas all shoppers face, but especially parents, is the age-old question of “time versus money.” When put to American parents, an overwhelming 81 percent said they prioritize saving money over saving time when it comes to BTS shopping. However, these same parents (70 percent) also said they're more efficient shoppers when they bring their children along. Here's where they encounter a bit of a dilemma. Bringing their kids may save time, but parents will spend $97 more if they do. This additional spend is not insignificant, especially when considering that parents expect to spend an average of $322 per child this year on BTS shopping.
Another key finding for retailers is that nearly one-third of consumers are now buying their BTS items in bulk to save money. To capitalize on these findings, successful retailers are offering bulk packages of popular BTS products, which are incentivizing increased and consolidated consumer spending.
In-Store and Online
Additionally, in-person purchases are still the preferred method of BTS shopping for parents. Despite the general popularity of online shopping, eight out of 10 parents plan to shop at brick-and-mortar stores this BTS season, and nearly two out of three parents would prefer to drive an hour to pick up a last-minute BTS item than pay $25 to have the item shipped overnight.
On top of the savings, parents see in-store BTS shopping as an opportunity to have a social moment with their children. They use it not just as a way to find out what their child needs for school, but also as a chance to simply spend time together outside of the house. Retailers are creating experiences at their physical stores, ensuring that parents and children have an environment that promotes this sentiment. School-related in-store demos or classes, store layout redesigns, and more are things that retailers are doing to foster that emotional bond parents seek during BTS shopping.
New Kids on the Block
While in-store and online shopping is most prevalent, the study showed that new channels are increasing in popularity amongst younger parents. Nineteen percent of parents between the ages of 18-29 are adopting voice assistants, such as Amazon Alexa, to help with BTS shopping.
Generation Z and young millennials are using voice assistants as a means to multitask — e.g., shopping online while also doing household chores.
Beyond the reported $83 billion that consumers spent last year on BTS shopping, the insights that cannot be overlooked are the experiences that these shoppers value. Time or money? Is this a family outing or do I go it alone? These considerations and more are on the minds of parents every summer. Retailers should continue to analyze these trends to ensure they're making the most out of this important season and providing parents with an experience that meets their needs and preferences.
To view the full report, complete with these and other insights on retail BTS shopping trends this year, please click here.
Leslie McNamara is chief marketing officer and head of workforce development at Citi Retail Services.
Leslie McNamara is Chief Marketing Officer and Head of Workforce Development for Citi Retail Services, one of North America’s largest providers of private label and co-brand credit cards for retailers.
Named to this role in August 2018, Leslie’s role focuses on organically growing the business through Partner, Cobrand and Digital Marketing. Supporting these key growth areas and also reporting to her are Research and Insights, Strategic Communications and Workforce Development. Most recent Leslie served as Head of Business and Market Development for Citi Retail Services, from April 2016 until August 2018. The Business and Market Development group — which Leslie was instrumental in founding — was a new unit Leslie encompassing all market-facing activities for Citi Retail Services. Her responsibilities in that role included Business Development, Research and Insights, Strategic Communications, and Workforce Development. Before assuming this role, she was Citi Retail Services’ Managing Director for Partnership Management, a position she accepted in August 2011. In that role, she provided strategic direction and leadership for Citi’s retail partner private label and co-brand credit card programs. She also headed the company’s field sales and merchant services organizations, which provide day-to-day sales and processing support for the business’ partners’ retail locations.
Leslie is a winner of Citi’s Senior Excellence in Leadership Award and is active in the bank’s women’s leadership initiatives, including keynotes at Citi’s Women Leadership retreats. She serves as a Board Trustee on the Thomas Jefferson University Enterprise Board’s Inclusion, Community Engagement, and Diversity Subcommittee. She is also recognized leader in the payments industry, being a 3x honoree of PaymentSource’s Most Influential Women in Payments.
Leslie joined Citi in 2002, holding positions of increasing responsibility in Partner Management, Marketing and Customer Engagement. Her financial services experience is rooted in consumer lending, business development and marketing, with a concentration in cards and payment products. Her former employers include CoreStates Financial Corp, Mellon Bank, Qwest Interactive, and Proctor & Gamble.