Ecommerce Marketers: the School Shopping Season is Here. Are You Ready?

By Evan McGonagill

July 24, 2017

Summer vacation may still be in full swing, but fall is already on the minds of parents and students across the country: back-to-school and back-to-college shopping is the second biggest retail season, and forecasts are predicting record-breaking spending levels in 2017.

Consumer Confidence Bolsters Spending Predictions

According to survey results from the National Retail Federation, total combined spending for back-to-school and back-to-college shoppers is predicted to reach $83.6 billion in 2017—an increase of 10% over last year. In fact, it will be the second 10% increase in two years, as the market rides a wave of strong consumer confidence. As a result of this trend, back-to-school spending is expected to come close to the $30.3 billion record set in 2012, while back-to-college spending will soar to an all-time high of $54.1 billion.

Ecommerce Takes a Large Slice of the Pie

The data has big implications for ecommerce retailers, as revealed by a closer look at how, where and when consumers plan to spend their budgets.

While most families plan to visit a variety of retailers, almost half of the survey respondents (44% of back-to-college and 45% of back-to-school shoppers) plan to do at least some portion of their shopping online. Options for shipping will also influence purchasing decisions, as a staggering 90% of shoppers plan to take advantage of free shipping offers while stocking up and 50% plan to buy online but pick-up in store. Whether or not a brand meets consumers’ expectations for convenient and cost effective shipping options will undoubtedly play a role in many customer’s purchasing decisions.

And it Begins….Now

Responses also showed that the shopping season is beginning earlier in the summer: while the most popular time to start acquiring supplies is three to four weeks before school, this year saw a 5% increase in consumers who plan to begin two months or more ahead of time.

Which is to say: the season is upon us! If you haven’t already crafted a strategy around back-to-school and back-to-college shopping crowds, now is the time. Don’t miss the opportunity to turn school season shoppers into loyal customers by leveraging personalization. By delivering a meaningful experience for each one as they ready their families for the school year, you can build relationships that will compel customers to return in 2018, or year-round.

Check out the full spread of data from the NRF here. To learn more about why personalized customer experiences are the wave of the future, see our infographic Mass Marketing vs. Personalization.

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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