When summer gives way to fall, it’s time for most students to head back to school.


Even as early as the beginning of August, the general back-to-school feeling begins to flood communities. Everyone posts on social media, retailers are getting their marketing campaigns in full-swing, and the competition ignites between stores to attract customers.


New School Year, New Expectations

The back-to-school campaign is a prequel to the holiday season, but it has already grown substantially in terms of sales value. Parents have mostly been tasked with finding uniforms, new clothes, and school supplies, but nowadays, students’ expectations have gotten a lot higher.


New tablets, smartphones, laptops, gadgets, and all other devices are promoted by retailers as back-to-school items, which has transformed and drastically increased the amount of money spent by parents at the beginning of the school year. 

How Much Are We Spending?

According to the National Retail Federation data, in the U.S., parents spend more than $26 billion on school items. That’s an average of $696.7 per child. The overall e-commerce market for the back-to-school period in the U.S. is a staggering $85.55 billion. The NRF estimates that the average parent will spend $122.13 on supplies alone. 

If we look at the data, we can see that the average expected expenditure for parents in the U.S. for back-to-school season increased exponentially over the past 10 years. In 2012, it almost doubled from the 2006 value but has flattened out during the last seven years. However, 2016 is still $9 billion higher than 2009 compared to 10 years ago. 

Main Trends for Back-to-School Season

The electronic gadgets category will continue to grow by $800M (+29% over 2018), while the computers and hardware category is expected to decline by $600M (-16% below last year), according to a Deloitte study.

Compared to last year’s data, electronic gadgets represent the only category where online sales are expected to increase at the detriment of in-store shopping at a rate of about 20%.

Parents are planning to spend the majority of their budget (over 55%) in-store, while around 30% will be spent online. The rest underpins an opportunity for both online retailers and traditional stores to convince customers to spend their money.

When compared to 2016, online sales increased by a consistent margin, getting from 22% to 29%. When it comes to purchasing patterns, mobile managed to advance again this year by 7%, according to the same Deloitte study. 

How to Stay Competitive During Back-to-School Season

By implementing strong data collection practices, retailers can collect massive amounts of data. Many of them are already doing that, but do not act on the piles of data collected.

This is a huge opportunity for revenue gains. By leveraging data, companies can substantially improve their understanding of what their customers want and subsequently boost their sales. However, simply having access to data is not enough. Retailers need to curate the data, analyze it, interpret it, and generate actionable insights.

Analytics firms such as Cognetik can help your company improve sales drastically by optimizing the customer journey, your website/app, and by leveraging your data. Contact us today so we can help steer your company in the right direction. 

About the author

Sebastian Stan

Sebastian is a journalist and digital strategist with years of experience in the news industry, social media, content creation and management, and digital analytics.

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