We’re nearing the end of summer and the new school year is about to begin. Which means, parents will begin shopping and looking for deals for school supplies, apparel and more. No wonder then that back-to-school shopping is one of the largest seasonal events of the year, for retailers and shoppers alike.
Why should you bother preparing for yet another promotional event? How do you attract eyeballs and win the sale in this cacophony of competing voices? What promotions offer the best payoff? We’ll dig out some data to help answer those questions and offer you strategies to succeed.
- Total spending for K-12 and college is expected to reach $75.8 billion, up from last year’s $68 billion
- Families with children in grades K-12 plan to spend an average $673.57 on apparel and accessories, electronics, shoes and school supplies, up from last year’s $630.36
- College students and families with children in college plan to spend an average of $888.71, down slightly from $899.18 last year
Back-to-School 2016 Trends
The back-to-school shopping season has steadily expanded over the last few years. Savvy consumers now tend to spread their back-to-school shopping budgets over a period of a couple of months to make the most of available deals, both online and in-store. While traditional product categories like School Supplies, Children’s Apparel and Backpacks still reign supreme, some returning students won’t be pushing pencils at all, but will be populating that first dorm room instead.
Consumer electronics, including Tablets, Laptops, and Smartphones, will likely be meaningful to top line sales numbers. Electronics tend to have a longer purchase consideration period, being higher value items. As a result, these consumers may start researching in early July but can delay purchase until much closer to the beginning of the school year. Additionally, electronics consumers tend to wait until the last minute to ensure their purchases keep up with the latest technologies.
Deal shopping is also a strong determinant of back-to-school shopping trends. Price sensitive shoppers tend to make their purchase as and when they spot a good deal, whether it’s during Amazon’s Prime Day in July or waiting until the end of summer (i.e. Labor Day sales). To fully appreciate the breadth and scale of this shopping season, sellers should pay attention to sales velocity on everything from mobile electronics to home décor to fully take advantage of the expected lift.
We loved the Back-to-School calendar that Retail Me Not put together, highlighting the most important shopping days for the season. Take a look:
Our Back-to-School Checklist for Winning on Marketplaces
Accuracy is Key: Optimize your product catalog to ensure search results relevancy
- Make sure your product categorizations are all up-to-date for all of your marketplace channels
- Add relevant search terms such as “back to school”, “school supplies”, and “student” to your product titles and descriptions
- Resolve any Amazon listing errors with our Channel Error Resolution Tool
- Adjust feed frequency to 15 minutes or shorter to avoid stock-outs
- Add an inventory buffer for items that have a higher potential to sell out
Winning the Buy Box: Determine your Buy Box competitive SKUs and compete to win
- Offer sale prices directly via the feed to help your SKUs compete for the Buy Box
- Utilize the CommerceHub Repricing Tool to help you win the Buy Box more often
- Reprice more aggressively on competitive SKUs to win the Buy Box
Being Prime Eligible on Amazon: 63 million U.S Prime Members now account for over half of the Amazon customer base 
- Use Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) or Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP) to get Prime eligible
- Make your top sellers Prime eligible
- Send enough inventory to the warehouse in preparation
Up Your Shipping Game: Free shipping has become table stakes for competing in online sales.
- Offer Free Shipping by waiving your shipping fee or rolling it into total product price
- Shorten your fulfillment latency to 1 to 2 days
- Offer Same-Day or Two-Day shipping to appeal to last-minute shoppers
- Check out CommerceHub’s SmartShipping delivery solutions to help reduce both shipping time and shipping cost