Practical factors like price, convenience, and product quality are paramount in consumer decisions about where and how to do back-to-school shopping, according to the new Back-to-School Report from global information company The NPD Group.
More than 70% of last year’s back-to-school purchases were made in stores, mainly due to the ability to get other shopping done and the wide selection of brands/products. Go-to retailers for back-to-school purchases were mass merchants like Target and Walmart. Of the 14 industries included in the study, in-store purchases varied from a low of 61% for sports equipment to a high of 78% for school supplies.
Top considerations in deciding where to back-to-school shop were best/lowest prices, sales/discounts/promotions, and wide product selection. For some key categories, one-stop shopping and trusted brand availability were ranked among the top three. Store displays and word-of-mouth are among the top ways consumers research and learn about where to go or what to buy when shopping for most back-to-school categories. Free shipping was identified as one of the most important benefits of online shopping, which represented 21% of 2016 back-to-school purchases on average.
“Back-to-school shopping is about satisfying a list of needs. The retailer or product that delivers value and ease in doing so will ring the sale,” says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for The NPD Group.
Almost 60% of consumers only buy back-to-school items on sale/discount. But value matters too—quality/durability and functionality round out the top three factors influencing purchases. With fashion (apparel, footwear, and accessories), comfort takes the place of functionality, ahead of color, style, and brand. Brand loyalty is low for back-to-school shopping, with most consumers buying both national and store brands. Compared to other shopping seasons, an average of 43% of consumers are more concerned with merchandise quality than with aesthetics for back-to-school purchases.
“Marketers must appeal to the back-to-school shopper’s sensible side and understand their spending priorities,” says Cohen. ”The spending dynamics that unfold between online and in-store shopping this back-to-school season will be indicative of future consumer behavior. It will be important for manufacturers and retailers to translate the nuances behind back-to-school shopping activity and adjust their strategies for upcoming seasons accordingly.”
Source: The NPD Group, Inc. / LAB Series: 2017 Back-to-School Report