Compete: Back-To-School Shoppers Heading Online

by , Aug 23, 2010, 4:05 PM
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Consumers expect the Web to play a key part in gearing up for the upcoming school year, according to new data from Web measurement service Compete. Nearly one-third (30%) of back-to-school shoppers surveyed by the firm said they plan to do at least half of their purchasing online.

Product categories that will benefit the most from that trend include electronics, dorm room accessories and kitchen supplies, suggesting that items for the college crowd like computers and furniture will be more likely to be bought online. When it comes to back-to-school shopping overall, however, the picture looks quite different.

Not surprisingly, school supplies lead the way, with 84% of shoppers planning to go online for things like books, notebooks, pens, paper and the like. The next-most-popular categories were clothing, at 70%, followed by shoes, at 58%. After that, there's a big drop-off to electronics, at only 20%, with bed and bath, dorm room accessories and kitchen supplies all coming in at less than 15%.

Overall, most people expect to spend as much or more than last year despite the lagging economic recovery, according to Compete's Online Shopper Intelligence study. More than half (54%) of consumers plan to spend about as much as last year on back-to-school goods, 24% will plunk down more, and 23%, less.

"Seeing an increase in back-to-school shopping portends well for the upcoming holiday season," noted Compete analyst Debra Miller in a blog post. "In fact, we found that 12% of those surveyed plan to spend more than last year. And hopefully, by the time the sweaters come out of the closet, this number will be even bigger."

A separate, recent study from ad technology firm PointRoll found that consumer interest in back-to-school ads online doesn't necessarily peak in August. Interaction rates for apparel ads, for instance, grew from 5.47% in July to 6.6% in September -- with August the lowest, at 5.23%. Apparel and school supply retailers, however, typically cut promotional back-to-school efforts online 75% by the end of August.

At the same time, interest in computer ads appeared to peak in June and taper off by the end of August, suggesting that electronics retailers could benefit by timing marketing pushes to earlier in the summer. 

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