Marketers will need to become more serious about knowing their customers this year. They will want to get the timing perfect, and determine whether they should reach out to them initially on a mobile device or desktop computer.
In fact, long before the online holiday shopping season typically begins, some marketers may want to pull out the sleighs, the menorahs and other traditional holiday cheer much earlier just to set the mood -- especially if back-to-school season purchase trends are any indication of the type of consumer behavior that marketers will see through the end of 2016.
This year consumers are deal-hunting, and researching and searching for the perfect place to make that purchase earlier than they have in the past. Google called out the trend in back-to-school data earlier this week, but data and signals from a variety of sources suggest that shopping early and on mobile will continue through the year and into the holiday season.
Many more consumers are deal-hunting on mobile devices. In fact, 77% of retail searches that mention "coupon" are initiated on a smartphone or tablet, as well as 73% of searches seeking a sale and 68% of discount searches, according to Hitwise, a division of Connexity.
Comparison searches, such as those focused on the return policy, price match or reviews, were initiated on a mobile device at least 77% of the time.
How and where consumers will make the purchase also plays into the advertising strategy. Marketers will need to know whether consumers are more likely to purchase the items in-store or online, as well as from a desktop or from a mobile device.
While parents with children in grades K-12 did the majority of their back-to-school shopping in brick-and-mortar stores this fall, a few product categories swung more heavily toward online shopping, according to Bizrate Insights, a Connexity division.
Some 45% of parents buying back-to-school supplies for K-12 kids expect to purchase technology devices online, followed by 31% of gear, 31% of clothing, 24% of shoes, and 13% of school supplies, according to the Bizrate Back-to-School Shopping Follow-up study based on 7,787 online buyers in the U.S. and Canada. The data was collected between July 17 and July 28, 2016 via an online survey presented immediately after completing a purchase at one of over 4,000 online retailers in the U.S. network of the Bizrate customer feedback program.
Consumers are paying closer attention to where they shop and the amount of money they spend. The National Retail Federation (NRF) estimates that back-to-school 2016 spending will hit $75.8 billion, up from $68 billion spent last year, but The Shelf cites data that suggests 62% of consumers will spend less this year than they did in 2015.
Online shopping saw an uptick this year for back-to-school shopping — 36.6% in 2015 versus 46% in 2016. More than 80% of shoppers will take advantage of free shipping and more than 53% will buy online and pick up in-store, according to the NRF.