Back-to-School 2023: Trends and Predictions

Get ready for the 2023 back-to-school season! Discover insights on shopping trends, consumer behavior, and strategies for success. Maximize your opportunities and deliver value with our network data and research.

Two young girls color with colored pencils

As the 2022-2023 school year comes to a close, parents and teachers are already gearing up for a busy back-to-school shopping

season. While some shoppers are reducing their buying budgets because of economic factors, many are looking for great deals, promotions and shopping inspiration. This presents an opportunity for retailers to invest in the right partners and publishers to boost sales this time of year.

Consumers are signaling their intent to engage with deals and coupons, setting their sights on getting the most bang for their hard-earned buck. With the help of our network data, Similarweb, eMarketer, and proprietary consumer research, we can navigate this terrain and help your affiliate program take center stage.

This year Technology was the preferred graduation gift, ranking above gift cards or cash.

Back to school season sales chart

Back-to-school industry predictions

As the world shifts back to a sense of normalcy, so has the trend of shopping in-store for back-to-school. Estimates show that roughly $29.3 billion will be spent on back-to-school shopping but we’re seeing the overall share of online shoppers stagnate. Compared to 2022, the share of online shopping as part of total sales is expected to decline -0.5%.

Online spending for students in grades K-12 will be less than in 2022, with a larger share of shoppers turning to brick-and-mortar stores.

While school supplies are in need year-round, according to keyword search traffic, its peak lies between July and August, but there is a significant uptick in June. This is when consumers start to search for school supplies for the upcoming school year.

Keyword search traffic for school supplies

*Chart Data from Similarweb*

What’s in the cart?

From our survey of 1,000 US consumers, we discovered that most consumers will be shopping for traditional back-to-school items. In addition:

  • 66% of shoppers will be doing at least half, or more, of their back-to-school shopping online this year.
  • 32% of them will be buying technology items for their students.
  • The most popular online items to purchase include computers, laptops, and tablets.

Looking back on the 2022 back-to-school season, the power of last year’s heat map data can help brands develop their strategy for the upcoming 2023 back-to-school shopping season.

back to school heat map

Notably, Prime Day created a halo effect for stores that ran competitive promotions. Consider running promotions right before, or alongside, prime day promotions to gain a percentage of the market share.

Macroeconomic factors

As consumers tighten their spending, value and convenience are heavily considered when making purchasing decisions. Consumers are looking for percentage-off savings, free shipping, and coupon options while shopping, with 92% of consumers seeking out coupons and promotions before clicking “buy” – this is why we recommend to be aggressive with your affiliate marketing strategy this year.

Inflation continues to play a big role in back-to-school shopping decisions, considerably more than in 2022.

  • 39% of shoppers are either increasing their budget and/or reducing the items they plan to buy this year.
  • This is in stark contrast to 2022 when only 17% of shoppers planned to do the same.

If you aren’t already partnered with a BNPL, now is the time! BNPL (buy-now-pay-later) services are taking advantage of the spike in inflation and credit card interest rate increases. BNPL services boast an interest-free way to pay for your purchases over time, and 48% of back-to-school shoppers will use or will consider using BNPL services to pay for their supplies.

Tips for a successful shopping season

With all the above in mind, here are a few ways for advertisers and publishers to find success in 2023.


  • Cement your foothold in this shifting landscape by securing placements with leading and mid-tier publishers. Ensure your brand is front and center with early placements as we approach the back-to-school period.
  • Harness heat map data to craft the best strategy for your audience. Align your top shopping periods with enhanced placements tailored to your vertical, ensuring your products show up when and where it matters most.
  • Leverage your Raktuen Advertising contact to find new partners and diversify your program.


  • Amplify your revenue streams by maximizing inventory availability, communicate this to your Rakuten Advertising contact so we can help promote you!
  • Allow flexibility in your pricing structures for placements, ensuring you cater to various budget types.

For additional information on how to succeed in 2023, check out our resource center for case studies, vertical-focused reports, and more!

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