Commentary

Back to School Shopping Season is Off to an Early Start

According to internal data from RetailMeNot, Inc., presented by Rachel Cagle,Research Analyst, mid-July has become the unofficial kickoff of the back-to-school shopping season, with consumers and retailers alike taking note. The number of unique retailers issuing deals on RetailMeNot.com during that time period increased 340%, from 27 retailers in 2016 to 119 retailers in 2017.

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Deals associated with the time period consisted of distinct messaging strategies: coupon codes and offers using phrases like “Black Friday in July” and “Cyber Monday in July.” Additionally, they were characterized by short-lived availability, aggressive discounts, sitewide codes, and free shipping.

Retailers actively competing in mid-July saw online traffic increase of more than 30% to their RetailMeNot.com store pages. Conversely, those who didn’t participate experienced a 4% decrease in online traffic to their store pages on RetailMeNot.com. And. while Amazon’s store page received 4% of visits, 96% of consumer website demand was driven by retailers other than Amazon.

RetailMeNot, in conjunction with Kelton Global, conducted additional research to understand how both consumers and retailers are planning for the mid-July rush this year… Back to School Shoppers, according to AudienceSCAN, are 57.4% made up of parents between the ages of 25 and 35. About 39.1% earn over $100,000 in annual household income. Also, in the past six months, 45.2% of this audience has used a mobile device to purchase a product.

In 2018, shoppers making purchases during that time, plan to spend an average of $167 on their items, with $70 going specifically toward back-to-school items. School shopping lists remain a top driver of purchase decisions for the parents surveyed. 91% of those who will be shopping then will make a back-to-school-related purchase.

Within the next year, 21.4% of back to school shoppers plan to spend at least $500 on children’s apparel and shoes, according to AudienceSCAN. Additionally: 

  • 15.3% would like to buy a new video game system 
  • 9.2% are looking for sporting goods/equipment for team sports 
  • 9.2% are looking into buying a smartwatch

84% of retailers surveyed believe back-to-school shopping will begin in or before mid-July in 2018, and 60% plan to run promotional offerings that target shoppers before then. Further, 54% will run offers to coincide with the middle of July, and 53% will target shoppers in the following days who may have missed out.

The best time to advertise to Back to School Shoppers is when they’re watching TV, says AudienceSCAN. About 68% of this audience took action after seeing a TV commercial last year. Social media is also a great place for ads since 60.7% of back to school shoppers took action after seeing an ad on social media last year. Another 57.7% were drawn to action by a sponsored search ad they found last year.

Rachel Cagleis a Research Analyst, specializing in audience intelligence. At SalesFuel she also helps to maintain the major accounts and co-op intelligence databases. 

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