2021 Rakuten Advertising Back to School Retail Insights

As many students finally return to in-person classes this year, brands are gearing up for another busy back-to-school retail season. With the effects of the pandemic still looming over consumers, marketers need to navigate yet another unprecedented back-to-school shopping season. 

This year, Rakuten Advertising surveyed 1,040 U.S. shoppers to understand how they feel about the upcoming school year, what they are buying, and how they are making purchases.   

Here are some of the key insights from this year’s survey:  

  • Almost 70% of shoppers plan to spend under $500 this year on back-to-school supplies, which is 17% more shoppers in a lower spending category compared to 2020.   
  • 63% of parents are scouting out holiday gifts while they do their back-to-school shopping, with 36% starting back-to-school shopping in July. 
  • Shoppers are purchasing less virus-related cleaning supplies during back-to-school shopping. Tissues, hand sanitizers, and face masks were some of the most important back-to-school retail items in 2020. Now that has dropped third behind traditional back-to-school items such as notebooks, glue sticks, and apparel.  
  • Over 75% of back-to-school shoppers will always or often seek out incentives before buying. Most consumers also look to online ads and cash back deals during the season. 
  • While the e-commerce boom from the pandemic is still in effect, 87% of parents will do at least some shopping online, while 28% of parents are planning to split their shopping equally between online and in-store this year. 
  • Shoppers with a higher income indicated that they were more likely to be highly influenced by items they saw on social media with Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube rated the most popular platforms. 

To stand out with this year’s back-to-school shoppers, retail brands should optimize their advertising strategies and consider where consumers are in their buying journey compared to previous years. We recommend you:    

Secure Placements and Customers Early 

Start securing placements with your publisher partners well in advance to get the most exposure throughout the long back-to-school retail season. Supply chain problems are expected to continue into fall and can extend shipping times. Encourage early shopping to entice customers to purchase and avoid disappointments​. 

Monitor and Optimize Your Strategy 

Capitalize on stellar performance by monitoring which touch points are the most influential and profitable using a sophisticated attribution strategy.  

Expand Your Partnerships 

Utilize influencers and content sites to spread awareness and education on your back-to-school offers to reach new potential customers. 

Download the 2021 Rakuten Advertising Back to School Marketing Insights Report today to learn more. 

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Rakuten Advertising

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