How Back-To-School Purchase Decisions Are Dramatically Changing

Despite widespread variations in return-to-school plans for the fall term, consumers are starting to prepare for purchases. Priorities on what to purchase have definitely changed.

It may compell marketers to think deeper when prepping for this year's campaigns. Advertisers that connect with shoppers early and throughout the customer journey see more sales and greater returns on advertising spend (ROAS) than advertisers who focus solely on lower-funnel tactics. Think awareness, consideration and conversions. 

The findings from Rakuten Advertising's latest consumer survey on back-to-school spending shows a definite shift. In fact, consumers expect to spend more on “cleanliness” supplies, such as tissues, sanitizer, and masks, more than any other product category.

As of mid-June, half of parents surveyed with school-age kids still don’t know how school will be conducted in the fall. Some 34% of back-to-college shoppers are not experiencing any changes to the start of their school years, while 32% say they will attend online classes rather than in person.



The data suggests consumers will spend about 28% on grade- and high-school age children compared. This group will spend about 23% on traditional gear, like backpacks and notebooks, 19% on technology, and 3% on new sporting equipment. About 26% represents the amount consumers will spend on college and university students. Some 21% will be spent on technology --laptop, and tablet -- 13% on traditional supplies, and 12% on clothing.

About 60% of all back-to-school shoppers are also browsing for holiday gifts, and more than 35% are buying school supplies and holiday gifts at the same time.

Shopping continues to shift online, especially with many of stores closed. In Orange County, California, stores like Macy’s, Bloomingdale's and Saks Fifth Avenue remain open, while mom-and-pop stores were required to close.

Some 85% of Rakuten survey respondents expect to do some of their shopping online, with only 15% saying they will shop exclusively in stores. This represents a significant jump from the last major shopping season, where only 55% of 2019 holiday shoppers planned to purchase holiday gifts online.

Shoppers may be more cautious about overall spend, with more than 50% of shoppers for grade and high-school children planning to spend less than $500 on back-to-school supplies this year.

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