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Back to School Shoppers Adapt to a Different Kind of School Year

Posted Aug 10, 2020

Summer seems to be flying by which means that it is almost time for students to return to classes. With the Coronavirus still spreading in the United States, back to school shoppers are having to adapt to a different kind of school year. Whether a student is returning to in-person classes or staying home to learn virtually, plans for back to school shopping have changed since last year.

Some shoppers have added PPE and sanitation products to their lists while others have included web conferencing accessories. The pandemic has not only affected students’ school years but also parents’ work situations as they modify their schedules to help educate their children. To better understand the changing school year, AdColony conducted its annual Back to School Shopping Survey.

The second edition of the Back to School Shopping Survey provides insights on consumer behavior pertaining to back to school shopping, online shopping preferences, and how people are preparing for a new school year during a pandemic.

Check out the highlights and scroll down to see the infographic!

Highlights of the Study

  • COVID-19 has affected the majority of students and parents’ upcoming school year plans.  78% of respondents said their school year has changed because of the pandemic. After schools moved to virtually learning at the end of the previous school year, only 19% of households are expecting to send students to in-person classes in the fall. Most parents (69%) have also had to make changes to their work situations to help educate their children. 71% of respondents have had to change their work hours while others will not be returning to work after being laid off (23%) or voluntarily quit their jobs (13%) to help educate someone in their household.
  • Back to school shoppers are more budget-conscious this year.  — Compared to 2019, 10% more shoppers will spend less than $500. Additionally, more shoppers (+10%) will be visiting dollar stores for this upcoming school year. With many people losing their jobs and an uncertain economic situation in the U.S., consumers are planning to spend less this year and look for more frugal options.
  • Online shopping hasn’t fully replaced in-store back to school shopping yet. — Despite the encouragement to stay at home during the pandemic, many back to school shoppers still prefer to shop in-person. Since last year, the share of shoppers that prefer in-store dropped only slightly by 3%. The majority of back to school shoppers (66%) will be doing their buying online with most of them preferring home delivery. Only 13% prefer the curbside delivery option that many retailers have recently adopted.
  • Back to school supply lists now include PPE, sanitation products, and web conferencing accessories. — The list of back to school supplies has changed for many students no matter if they’re attending school in-person or learning at home. More than half (57%) of respondents said they plan to purchase PPE and sanitation products for the school year. Additionally, 21% plan to purchase study and office furniture for the home. Some shoppers (19%) planning to buy electronics have added web conferencing accessories to their lists to enhance the virtual learning experience.
  • Smartphone is still the preferred device to do back to school shopping but more consumers are using computers and tablets this year. — The majority (59%) of back to shoppers prefer to do shopping on their smartphones but more people will be using computers and tablets this year. In comparison to last year, 6% more shoppers will use their computers primarily, while 5% more will use their tablets. Shopping on a mobile device is the most convenient option while on-the-go but since most people are still spending most of their time at home, they have access to their other devices to make purchases.

Don’t forget to click on the infographic to open it full size!

About the Study
The AdColony Back to School Shopping Survey asked consumers in the United States a series of easy-to-answer questions about back to school shopping revealing a generous amount regarding shopping preferences and patterns of behavior while purchasing items for the new school year in a variety of age groups. 

Respondent Profile
There was a good mix of respondents, with the gender distribution being 52% female and 48% male. A majority of respondents were 45 to 54 years old (30%). The survey was conducted in the United States with responses coming from 46 states.

Join the Conversation
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