By Stephanie Crets
Back-to-school shopping has yet to overtake holiday shopping, but it’s working hard to make its mark in sales. According to a report by Cardlytics, mid-July through August is the second largest shopping season in the United States. This data was collected from in-store and online purchase data from 70 percent of U.S. households.
The study found three specific trends in back-to-school shopping:
1. Consumers are making more frequent shopping trips versus making one big trip, which drives growth for retail sales.
According to the report, back-to-school retail spending increased 3.04 percent year-over-year in 2014 due to a 3.74 percent increase in shopping trips.
“To keep consumers coming back for more, retailers should drive awareness of their e-commerce site among customers who are shopping in-store and highlight convenience factors like free shipping, easy in-store returns, larger inventories and more,” says Caroline Sturm, marketing director for Cardlytics.
2. Specialty retailers are seeing the biggest gains during this shopping period.
Consumers were willing to explore new stores during this shopping season to access a wider variety of retailers, perhaps to get that one item they can’t get anywhere else. This could be anything from dorm décor to a new laptop. Regardless of the reason, this willingness to spend more time and money across different kinds of retailers drove 6.6 times more specialty retailer purchases. The biggest specialty store spike was in shoe and athletic footwear purchases with a 624 percent increase during this period.
3. Shoppers make more purchases over the mid-July to August shopping period online rather than in-store.
“One key insight from our analysis is that in many categories like apparel, office supplies and electronics, consumers will continue to purchase online even after school starts and in-store purchases have already tapered off,” Sturm says.
This could be due to parents shopping for an item their freshmen college student forgot and shipping it to them or simply because online shopping is so convenient. But online retailers who continued to promote back-to-school savings got an extra boost after the in-store purchases dropped off.
“Retailers can extend back-to-school ads and promotions online to capture shoppers that are shopping online longer,” she says.
If retailers – both in-store and online – want to continue this upswing in sales and new trends, they can continue to attract customers in a number of ways:
- Highlight specific back-to-school ads for those specialty store shoppers.
- Extend online ads and offer more promotions once the traditional in-store back-to-school shopping has ended.
- Invest in traffic-generating marketing tactics to increase awareness for those consumers looking for multiple shops to stop in.
- Offer promotions and loyalty programs to retain current customers.
“As with many shopping holidays, the back-to-school shopping season has extended across a longer period of time,” Sturm says. “Retailers can time their promotions to maximize on this increased foot traffic.”