Back-To-School: Retail Trends & Study Findings

By Evan McGonagill

September 6, 2018

With Labor Day just past, back-to-school shopping is now in full swing as parents rush to get the last details pulled together before the school year starts. (And for those of you everything at the last minute: We’re here for you, too, procrastinators.)

To help retailers make sense of this chaotic shopping season, we’ve just published the results of our Back-to-School Shopping Study. In the study you’ll find valuable insights into consumer shopping and buying preferences. Keep reading here to learn some of the highlights.

In-Store Still Rules for Back-to-School

Several standout statistics from the report show that:

  • 56 percent of respondents shopped at brick-and-mortar stores
  • 20 percent shopped online
  • Only 7 percent shopped on mobile apps.


Everyone has been working very hard on their online and mobile sites and there is tremendous commerce happening in those valuable channels. But don’t forget about your traditional retail channel! For back-to-school, the store is still where it’s at. And while the percentages are likely to shift a bit more next year, remember these stats and plan accordingly when planning for the 2019 season.

Since these shoppers tend to buy in person, how do you capture the attention of the store-centric shopper while also thinking beyond the short back-to-school season? In addition to traditional coupons, discounts and incentives, the study shows that there are other effective methods to encourage this group of shoppers to purchase with your brand.

Consider the following statistics:

  • 78% of shoppers are open to receiving recommendations from retailers
  • 60% are open to personalized offers.

While discounts and coupons get people into your stores, personalized offers and product recommendations will help you build a relationship with these important buyers. Those tactics also play an important role with margin-boosting methods such as encouraging add-on sales, raising average order size and facilitating shoppers to ‘complete the look.’  

Omnichannel is Where You Need to be

This study provides another reminder that the true winner in these heavy shopping seasons are those retail stores who capitalize on the omnichannel experience. And for many, this should be an area of focus over the next 10 months, so you are ready to dominate with this powerful strategy for the next back-to-school season.  

Can you integrate the buyer’s in-store purchase information with their digital information? If the answer is no, then this should be your centerpiece 2019 company development initiative.

Knitting together physical and digital information for every buyer will allow you to build sustainable, loyal relationships. And most importantly, you’ll be able to provide personalization and recommendation offers that cross the entire customer journey. Your buyers are open to these types of messages, so you need to step up and make them happen.

What Back-to-School Retail Trends Mean for the Holiday Season

The timing of this Monetate study is particularly valuable because it gives you a true preview of what to expect for the most important end-of-year season. How can you take these back-to-school stats and allow them to quickly inform your holiday strategy?   

  • Can you do a better job of training your store associates to ask for email addresses with every in-store purchase?  
  • Can your loyalty program facilitate better in-store data collection?  
  • Can you use the POS and other purchase data to quickly follow up with in-store purchasers using your digital channels?
  • Can you follow on the in-store purchase with an upsell or complete the look offer?    
  • Can you include an offer with the purchase that encourages the gift recipient to opt-in with you?  

Holiday prep time is a very short window, but making the time to implement just one or two of these suggestions could provide you with vital boosts for your 2018 holiday results. And, crazy as it may seem, now is the time to let your 2018 back-to-school results and the findings from this report inform your plans for the 2019 season.  

Click here to download the full report: Back-To-School Shopping Study: the Where, When and What Driving Consumer Decision Making

Evan McGonagill is a content writer for Monetate, where she researches and produces whitepapers, blog posts, and other material about commerce and personalization. Evan has a background in libraries and archives, and she uses her interest in the structure and flow of information to think about how brands can harness data to build more personal connections with their customers. When she isn't in the library or learning about personalization, you can find her playing music in West Philadelphia.

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