Back To School: Inside The Mind Of The Shopping Parent

The new school year is quickly approaching. If you’re doing any shopping, online or in-store, you’ll face that unavoidable truth whether you are ready or not. We wanted to dig into the mindset of current parents and find out who they are, how they move through the hectic back to school process and how we as marketers can better cater to their needs.  

To do so, we polled 1,535 parents with students in kindergarten and up. You can see additional details from the survey in the infographic below, but here is a snapshot of the demographics of the parents: 82% of the audience were moms whereas 18% were dads, and while ages ranged from 18 to 70, the average age was 41.  

What did we learn? Below we answer key questions with data-based insights and actionable steps you can take as part of your back to school marketing plans.  



When should you start back to school marketing? 

One of the key questions every advertiser and retailer battles is when to begin the back to school push. Our data shows that the large majority (76%) of consumers begin shopping no more than 30 days before the first day of school. This is pretty telling data, especially considering it is common these days to see back to school advertising begin before the last day of school even happens in certain places. Considering the fact that the large majority of shopping parents are kicking off the process just weeks, not months, before their children head back to school, align marketing activations around that final month to get the most efficient use of your dollars.  

How are parents planning, if at all? 

Today’s shopper is more prepared than ever before. Our data showed that 68% of parents are spending time before shopping looking for coupons and deals and staying updated on back to school tips and trends. They are getting this information from targeted digital content and articles as well as inspiration from Facebook and Pinterest. The lesson here is to invest in the pre-shopping experience to reach consumers before they move into the buying phase. In order to do that, you must produce and distribute valuable content – or partner with companies who can do that for you – and offer savings for your shoppers. An additional data point reinforces this recommendation: 57% of parents say that coupons and deals influence where they shop and how much they’ll spend.   

Where is back to school shopping happening? 

Of the 1,535 parents polled, 55% said they were doing most of their shopping this season at a superstore. Making up the additional 45% were dollar stores, online shopping and grocery stores, in that order. There is no question that the ease of shopping for everything under one roof is preferred by customers. That is why we are seeing Walmart and Target continue to diversify their brick and mortar offerings and large grocery chains like Kroger rolling out their Marketplace superstore selling things like home goods, clothing and kitchen appliances.

The biggest lesson we can learn here revolves around how to focus shopper marketing budgets. While you must get on the list before the shopper moves into purchase mode, invest in retail channels where your shoppers are back to school shopping. Walmart and Target should make up the bulk of that investment, but if you have distribution in the value channel don’t count it out, as 22% of parents said they prefer dollar stores this time of the year.      

In short:Pay attention to the pre-shopping experience, keep in mind that superstores are diversifying their offerings for the easiest all-in-one shopping experience, and be careful not to hit consumers too early in either case. 

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