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What Online Retailers Need to Know About the 2015 Back to School Shopping Season

Seasonal creep isn’t confined to Christmas anymore. Veteran online retailers who have been watching holiday season digital sales start earlier and earlier over the last few years have a new research and purchase window to keep an eye on: Back to school shopping.
According to eMarketer, US online retail sales will increase 14.4% over the critical planning and purchasing months of July and August compared to the same period in 2014. Here’s what ecommerce companies – particularly apparel, home goods and electronics brands – need to know about digital advertising during one of the busiest seasons of online shopping.

How much money can ecommerce companies expect to see in spend on back to school shopping in 2015?

Back to school shopping categoriesThe outlook looks rosy for ecommerce companies selling products that appeal to elementary, middle school, high school and college-aged students. Back to school shoppers are predicted to spend $56 billion online over the next couple months, accounting for 16.5% of all online retail in 2015. Historically, school supplies like backpacks and electronic devices such as laptops have seen the biggest change in spend over the past two years, according to the National Retail Federation.

When do parents and college students start shopping for back to school supplies?

Time of year when US Internet users begin shopping for back to school itemsThe back to school online shopping season seems to be mirroring holiday ecommerce trends in terms of start time. In both cases, online retail companies have begun amping up sales just when parents and students are beginning to research and browse items (as early as July), hoping to get the advantage over competitors. It’s important to note that while seasonal creep should factor into when online marketers begin advertising their academically related wares, a majority of back to school shoppers are still waiting until August — or closer to the last minute — to make an online retail purchase. In either case, limited-time sales can help turn browsers into buyers; however, procrastinators will find free or expedited shipping deals especially attractive.

What is driving online retail during the back to school shopping season?

According to Thomson Reuters, the following four factors most heavily influenced parents’ back to school buying last year:

Sales/special offers

Teacher recommendations

Child request

Other parents

Besides promoting buy one get one free offers, percentages off, limited-time discounts, and free shipping in digital campaigns aimed at moms, the data indicates that online retailers may benefit from targeting online advertising to teachers and television advertising to school-age children who may not be old enough for social media.

Free Ecommerce Back to School eBook

Learn how to reach high-value back to school shoppers in Marketing to Moms & Millennials: A Back to School Guide.

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