Back To School Shopping Trends 2022

Key Themes

  • Back-to-school (BTS) shoppers are likely the same shoppers as weekly grocery shoppers, but they are shopping differently.
  • Inflation and a commodity approach to BTS goods is leading to needs-based/price-based decisions. BTS shoppers largely see school supplies as a commodity, meaning price and value are key drivers of purchase decisions this year.
  • Our data shows that this will be a highly competitive BTS season for retailers to attract this valuable shopper base.
  • Online having more of an impact on supplies and apparel than in grocery (despite the “buyer” overlap.)
  • Three-fourths plan to spend the same or less on BTS — there’s going to be a price war for these valuable shoppers. Ancillary value to these shoppers is meaningful, as 58% are going to buy other goods while doing their BTS shopping.

2021 Overview

Highlights:

  • Although in person is still the top purchase method for school supplies (83% said so, which is six points higher than what we observed in 2021), third-party apps (30%), websites (24%) and store apps (19%) had large shares of usage.
  • Online shopping for school supplies is similar to 2021 trends. This shows that there is growing comfort with a return to in-person shopping, but also that online is here to stay.
  • 40% of back-to-school shoppers are likely to purchase bundled supply kits. Directionally, parents of Pre-K/K students are most likely to buy kits (49%).
  • 60% said they have bought snacks for themselves or for their children for use in school, while 50% said the same thing about apparel.

Understanding Overall School Spending Habits

  • One in four said they already have spent more on school supplies in 2022 compared with 2021, while 22% said they spent less money.
  • Close to a third said they have spent more on apparel this year compared with the previous year, while 18% have spent less.
  • 38% said they spent more on snacks in 2022 compared with 2021, while 17% said they spent less money.

Understanding School Supplies Buying Habits

  • Price (61%)
  • Availability of Certain Items (42%)
  • Promotions or Discounts (35%)
  • Quick Delivery (16%)
  • Online Ordering Options (16%)
  • Loyalty Program (12%)

Understanding Apparel and Snacks Buying Habits

Apparel

  • 50% said they have recently bought apparel for themselves or for their children for use in school.
  • 79% buy apparel in person, while 31% use a third-party app or website and 23% use a store’s own app.
  • 50% buy apparel from Walmart, with other popular options including Target (35%), Amazon (29%), Kohl’s (28%) and Old Navy (28%).

Snacks

  • 60% said they have recently bought snacks for themselves or for their children for use in school.
  • 86% buy snacks in person, while 14% use a third-party app or website and 14% use a store’s own app.
  • 62% buy snacks from Walmart, with other popular options including Dollar General (27%), Target (25%), Amazon (14%) and Gopuff (5%).

How To Launch a Successful Back-To-School Advertising Campaign

  • Target parents, not students. Parents, especially those with younger or middle school-aged children, are much more likely to spend — and spend more — than parents with older kids or students themselves. Many parents are focused on price, so messaging should highlight value.
  • Brick and mortar should be an area of focus. Across the board, a lot of back-to-school shopping is likely going to happen in person. For one, that means brands should make sure their brick-and-mortar locations are ready to handle the demand. Brands and retailers should also consider tactics that are proven effective at driving footfall, like mobile ads with custom maps to the nearest store location.
  • Digital channels are still vitally important. Even though consumers are back to buying in person, that doesn’t mean that digital channels should be neglected — far from it, in fact. Many consumers will still shop online. Furthermore, digital advertising is often an ideal way to reach consumers; this is especially true with mobile — not only will time spent on mobile rise in 2022, but the fact that it’s always with consumers makes it an ideal marketing channel. Just because shopping is predominantly going to be in stores, according to Pulse results, the product discovery and browsing behavior should still largely be influenced via digital.

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