With back-to-school right around the corner, it is important for brands to not only secure the top placements for their promotions, but to also understand when their consumers will shop, what they will be purchasing and why. According to National Retail Federation, 71% of surveyed consumers will be shopping three weeks before school starts. Generally, high school begins the last week of August and college begins either the same week or the first week of September. For college shoppers, 61% plan to shop three weeks before school begins. We’ve compiled the following to give further insight into the different shopping behaviors for back-to-school high schoolers and college goers.
Back to High School Shopper Profile
Who are they? And where do they shop?
Most back-to-schoolers are going to be either a Millennial or in the Gen-Z generation. For high school, Gen-Zers take the larger piece of the demographic pie, while college is still mainly Millennials. So how are millennials and gen-zers shopping currently? Research shows that this younger crowd of 14 to 18 year-old high schoolers really enjoy in-store shopping. In fact, 76% of Gen-Zers believe physical stores provide a better shopping experience. In general, Gen-Zers prefer to have an great overall experience with a brand, meaning although this age group may love shopping in-store, a brand’s online consumer experiences are just as critical.
How do they like to shop?
It’s no secret that younger generations (like Millennials and GenZers) are on social media more than other generations, but what’s important to remember when reaching these generations on social media is how to engage with them properly. Since the GenZ back-to-schoolers love to shop in physical stores, brands should ensure their social ads nurture the desire to shop offline. Something as simple as offering an online coupon only redeemable offline (in-store) is an excellent way to engage with the GenZ audience.
What are they shopping for and when?
Generally, high schoolers shop for basic back-to-school items like apparel, trendy shoes, bags and school supplies. According to Rakuten Marketing peak trends:
- Apparel peaks during the second and fourth week of August
- Footwear peaks throughout the entire month of August
- Office products peak the second week of August through the second week of September
Back to College Shopper Profile
Who are they?
With college consisting of mostly Millennials, it’s important to know how this generation is shopping as well. Yet, according to Deloitte, 80% of parents say they pay for more than half of what their back-to-college kid is shopping for. So, although Millennials are the main age group of college attendees, brands should be focusing their back-to-college marketing campaigns around the parents too.
Where and how do they like to shop?
Focusing on the Millennial shoppers, eMarketer reveals that two-thirds of US millennials use an online and offline shopping approach. This means brands should be leveraging cross-channel marketing strategies if they want to engage with Millennial shoppers. Gen-Zers are more likely to shop on social media, but Millennials are also utilizing this platform to make purchases. About 62% of surveyed consumers stated they have either used or are interested in using social media as a way to make a purchase.
What are they shopping for and when?
Back-to-college shoppers have a broad number of items they need to buy for their back-to-school efforts. Including the same essentials as back to high school shoppers, they are also shopping for beauty/personal care products, food items, collegiate brand gear, electronics, and home needs for their dorms (or other living situations). Rakuten Marketing affiliate data reveals the following peak times:
- Consumer Electronics peak the second and third week of August and the first week of September
- Food & Drink peaks the first week of August
- Health & Wellness peaks the second week of August and the third and fourth week of September
- Housewares/Small Appliances peak the entire summer, all the way through the first week of August
Other College shopping insights
Convenience is a number one selling-point for college shoppers. For many college goers, especially if it’ll be their first year, having different shipping/pick-up options is essential in making their life a bit easier. Many schools are working with brands to have pick-up points at the school where students can grab their online orders. Some brands even offer home good deliveries straight to the dorm! Offering these types of options is a sure way to get college students and their parents to buy from your brand as many of these shoppers would rather buy it and pick it up somewhere conveniently located near their school rather than purchasing and traveling with it.
Discounts are key
Both College and High School Shoppers love deals! With the projected amount of back-to-school shopping forecasted at $80.7 billion, any deal a back-to-school shopper can get will help. Percentage off’s, coupons, cashback, etc. are great ways to get these shoppers to purchase from your brand. It’s also a great way to stay present in the consumer’s mind for the upcoming holiday shopping season. If you make shopping quick, easy and cheap for a consumer, they’re bound to come back in the future.
The back-to-school shopping season is a great opportunity for brands to reach new shoppers, engage them, and deliver on their needs and expectations. Understanding the different ways consumers are shopping is the first step in creating marketing strategies that work for the brand as well as the consumer.