Back to School 2023: Divergent Studies, Unified Retail Strategy

August 28, 2023

Although two different studies yielded opposite results regarding what is expected for this 'Back to school US 2023', it is important to highlight that the consumer in one way or another looks for offers and discounts, and here the eRetail Media has a key role.

In one hand, according to the annual survey released today by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, Back-to-class shopping is anticipated to reach record levels this year as students and parents gear up for the start of a new school year. From backpacks and notebooks to calculators and art materials, retailers are witnessing an unprecedented surge in demand across various categories. This heightened level of back-to-class shopping can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, as the summer draws to a close, consumers are eagerly gearing up to jumpstart their back-to-school and college purchases early. By getting an early start on their purchases, consumers can make thoughtful decisions without feeling rushed or limited in choices available – ensuring a successful transition into another academic year. While consumers have started shopping early, as of early July, 85% said they still have at least half of their shopping left to do. Additionally, this year, elementary through high school students are expected to spend an average of $890.07 on back-to-school items, an increase of $25 over last year's record of $864.35. Electronics are a major contributor to this increase in spending. In today's digital age, technology has become an integral part of education, making it essential for students to be equipped with the latest gadgets and devices to enhance their learning experience. From laptops and tablets to graphing calculators and headphones, parents understand that investing in electronic tools can significantly aid their child's academic journey. Students now rely on these devices not only for research purposes but also for online classes, virtual tutoring sessions, or even attending lectures remotely. Therefore, families are willing to allocate a larger portion of their budget towards purchasing cutting-edge electronics that will ensure their children stay ahead in this fast-paced world where knowledge is just a click away.  As in past years, the top electronics consumers plan to purchase are laptops (51%), tablets (36%) and calculators (29%). 

On the other hand, according to the “2023 Deloitte back-to-school survey”, this is a season of economizing. Shopping will focus on finding ways to save - for instance, researching the best deals, shopping earlier, and figuring out how to get items (and return them) at the lowest cost. With total spend dropping 10% year over year (YoY), the focus is on replenishing the necessities, such as school supplies, while holding off on nonessential purchases, such as tech and apparel. The study shows that nearly 6 in 10 parents surveyed say they would be willing to splurge for the right reasons, like treating their child, self-expression, or better quality

Therefore, there's still hope for retailers. Having recognized a possible growing trend or a negative one, retailers have been proactive in meeting customer demands through early promotions, discounts, and convenient online options for those who prefer contactless shopping experiences. In essence, eRetail Media not only facilitates cost-effective advertising solutions but also serves as a catalyst for driving sales growth during the crucial back-to-school period in 2023.

Digital preferences

  • 49% research online before buying in-store; 55% review return policies before shopping 
  • 59% will only shop at retailers offering free returns 
  • Shoppers are willing to spend an average of $32 to qualify for free shipping 
  • Shoppers prioritize retailers with competitive pricing, favoring mass merchants (80%), online retailers (60%), and off-price retailers and dollar stores (33%) 

Recent statistics reveal that an astounding 49% of shoppers diligently conduct online research before venturing into brick-and-mortar stores. This trend highlights a growing desire for informed decision-making, as customers seek to maximize their time and ensure they are making the most suitable purchases. With just a few clicks, potential buyers can access comprehensive product information, compare prices across various platforms, read detailed reviews from fellow consumers, and even explore alternative options—all in the comfort of their own homes. Furthermore, another noteworthy statistic indicates that 55% of individuals conscientiously review return policies prior to embarking on their shopping endeavors. This careful consideration underscores consumers' astute awareness regarding post-purchase contingencies and serves as evidence of their desire for hassle-free transactions should the need arise for returns or exchanges. These findings undoubtedly highlight how crucial it is for businesses to adapt by prioritizing user-friendly websites with robust product descriptions while also ensuring clear return policies are prominently displayed—a seamless integration between virtual and physical realms remains paramount in attracting and retaining modern-day customers.

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