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E-Commerce Trends Another Opportunity for Growth: Back to School Season

Registration dateAUG 18, 2023

Another Opportunity for Growth: Back to School Season
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF)’s report on 2023 new semester consumption trends which was released in June 2023, US consumers are planning to shop during back-to-school and back-to-college seasons just as they do during major shopping events like the Independence Day on July 4 and Labor Day [1]. The distribution industry in the US runs mad about catching special customers during the back-to-school season, a new semester for primary and secondary schools, and the back-to-college season, a period that begins a little later than the back-to-school where college students prepare for the new term. This is because students and parents buy school supplies, clothing, electronics, etc. they need for the new school term.

Let’s take a look at the key points to understand and prepare for the back-to-school and back-to-college season in the US. We hope you can gain additional insights about the major shopping season in the US.
the back of the children walking with their arms around their shoulders (Source: Freepik)
The back-to-school and back-to-college season in the US is when students, parents, and teachers get interested and actually buy products required for school life and school running. US consumers spend a lot of money shopping during a new semester. The NRF expects US spending for the new semester during the back-to-school season in 2023 to reach $37.8 billion, up 4.3% year-on-year. Additionally, most consumers predict product prices to be higher this season due to factors including inflation.
[US Back-to-school Spending(2007-2022)] US Back-to-school Spending(2007-2022) (Source: NRF)
The expected back-to-school spending for each US household is gradually increasing every year. Therefore, the expected spending per household in 2023 is predicted to increase to a certain degree compared to $864.35 in 2022.
[Expected Average Back-to-School Expenditure per US Household] Expected Average Back-to-School Expenditure per US Household (Source: Statista)
We can divide a new school term in the US into two seasons: The back-to-school (BTS) season, the time when primary and secondary schools start, and the back-to-college (BTC) season for college students. The two have similar concepts, but there are slight differences. Therefore, we will review the characteristics of purchasers, major purchased items, shopping preferences, etc. for each of the seasons. Each seller can use this data to identify the relevance of BTS and BTC with their main products and come up with marketing strategies and action plans for the relevant season. 1. Target Customers Target customers of the BTS season are parents who have young children. Of the total spending, 62% comes from these parents. Additionally, kids, middle school students, high school students, and people in the education industry are also major consumers. On the other hand, major buyers during the BTC season are college students ranging from freshmen to graduates. University students are more likely to purchase items required for the start of school on their own, and it is said that 52% of college students directly paid with their money. [1]
[A Family Shopping During the Back-To-School Season] A Family Shopping During the Back-To-School Season (Source: NBC News)
[A Family and College Student Preparing for Back-To-College Season] A Family and College Student Preparing for Back-To-College Season (Source: sturti)
2. The Shopping Season The BTS season begins 3 weeks before the start of a new school term. Generally, it starts in July to August and ends in early September. In contrast, the BTC season mostly starts in August to September and even continues to October depending on the school curriculum of the university.
July, August, September, October (Source: Freepik)
3. Shopping Channels US consumers during a new semester plan to shop on various online and offline channels, and the preference for shopping via online marketplaces are slightly higher. This applies to both BTS and BTC consumers. [1]
[Expected Purchasing Channels of Back-To-School Consumers-2022] Expected Purchasing Channels of Back-To-School Consumers-2022 (Source: NRF)
[Expected Purchasing Channels of Back-To-College Consumers-2022] Expected Purchasing Channels of Back-To-College Consumers-2022 (Source: NRF)
4. Major Purchased Items Common products BTS/BTC consumers buy a lot are clothing, electronics, and school supplies. However, there are some differences. BTS consumers are likely to purchase products that are closely related to school life including backpacks, lunchbox items, and school supplies. On the other hand, BTC consumers have a higher possibility of buying laptops, printers, and furniture. [1][2][3]

1) Major Purchased Items during the Back-To-School Season
[The Proportion of Purchased Items during Back to School in the US (2007-2022)] The Proportion of Purchased Items during Back to School in the US (2007-2022) (Source: NRF)
[2023 Amazon Back to School Page] 2023 Amazon Back to School Page (Source: Amazon)
  1. School supplies and stationery: These are must-have items during the BTS season. Some examples are notebooks, pencils, highlighters, scissors, calculators, science equipment, art supplies, sports goods, and instruments. Consumers buy stationery in boxes and use them all school year.
  2. Clothing, shoes, and bags: Almost all US consumers buy new clothes and shoes during a new semester. School bags and backpacks are also one of the most sold products for BTS shopping.
  3. Electronics: Items that are necessary in the school including laptops, tablets, smartphones, tablet cases, keyboards, computer mice, earphones, and accessories. It is an item that is always included in the BTS shopping list.
  4. Books: The demand for books such as textbooks and novels is high in a new semester.
  5. Lunchboxes and snacks: Consumers buy various products including lunch boxes, lunch bags, water bottles, and individually packed snacks. In the US, the word BTS connects with images such as new shoes, backpacks, and lunch bags. In fact, Amazon even runs a separate page for back-to-school lunch bags since products related to those are really popular. If you are an Amazon seller who deals with these products, it may be good to plan to launch new lunch box products for elementary, middle, and high school students.
[Amazon Back-To-School Lunch Box Page] Amazon Back-To-School Lunch Box Page (Source: Amazon)
2) Major Purchased Products in the Back-to-College Season

During the back-to-college shopping season, you need to prepare all items necessary for the home ranging from products required in the dorm or living alone including furniture and bedding materials to everyday products including cooking equipment, home appliances, daily supplies, and food. This is why the BTC season is very important to Amazon sellers.
[US Back to College Proportion of Purchased Items (2007-2022)] US Back to College Proportion of Purchased Items (2007-2022) (Source: NRF)
[2023 Amazon Off to College Page] 2023 Amazon Off to College Page (Source: Amazon)
  1. Furniture: Furniture refers to items necessary for people living alone in college dorms or apartments such as desks, chairs, closets, dressing tables, lamps, and beds. The purchase rate of functional furniture for convenient college life is high, and various accessories for furnishing personal spaces are also popular.
  2. Home appliances: Home appliances for a convenient life are popular such as air fryers, microwaves, refrigerators, coffee makers, electric kettles, toasters, heaters, and vacuum cleaners.
  3. Kitchen appliances: College students who wish to cook in dorms or apartments need to buy kitchen appliances including pots, frying pans, dishes, and plates.
  4. Clothing and accessories: College students purchase clothing and accessories for the new school year and show their different styles.
  5. Daily supplies: Consumers buy a wide range of products required for their daily life such as mattresses, bedding materials, hangers, towels, cleaning equipment, bath supplies, moving boxes, and bedding sets.
[Amazon Off to College Storage Solutions] Amazon Off to College Storage Solutions (Source: Amazon)
  1. Personal hygienic goods and laundry products: Key purchased items include personal hygienic goods such as shampoos, conditioners, soaps, toothpaste, and deodorants as well as detergents, detergent balls, and laundry baskets.
  2. Electronics: Electronics such as laptops, tablets, smartphones, and printers are products that are essential for studies and research.
[Amazon Off to College Electronics] Amazon Off to College Electronics (Source: Amazon)
  1. Entertainment products: Entertainment products such as TVs, game consoles, and speakers needed for leisure time are also popular items.
[Amazon Off to College Gaming] Amazon Off to College Gaming (Source: Amazon)
  1. Snacks: College students often look for snacks including granola bars, trail mixes, fruits, nuts, raisins, and crackers because of stress from busy schedules and studies.
Back-to-school and back-to-college shopping seasons are an opportunity Amazon sellers must not lose. They are also the only peak season after Amazon Prime Day and before Black Friday. Each seller should consider the factors mentioned above, come up with successful sales strategies for their main products, and proceed with promotions and inventory replenishing processes. It is also good to seriously consider launching new products that meet the shopping requirements of Amazon consumers. We hope you enjoy high sales during the back-to-school and back-to-college seasons with close consideration and careful preparations. # References [1] Back-to-School 2023 Retail Holiday and Seasonal Trends, NFR(National Retail Federation) https://nrf.com/insights/holiday-and-seasonal-trends/back-to-school
[2] The Easiest Back-to-School Supplies Checklists, From Kindergarten to College, Good Housekeeping https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/tips/a17427/school-shopping-lists/
[3] Back to school 2022: Amazon’s 15 best deals on clothes, backpacks, more https://nypost.com/2022/08/08/back-to-school-2022-best-amazon-deals-on-supplies-clothes-more/

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