A young person carrying colorful shopping bags.

2015 back-to-school shopping predictions

Posted on Jul 10, 2015 · 4 min read

Believe it or not, it’s already time to start talking about back-to-school. It may seem a little early for back-to-school shopping, but according to a new Consumer Pulse survey from Rubicon Project, 23% of K-12 parents have already started stocking up on school supplies and plan to continue to do so throughout the summer. Texas, Florida, Arkansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and other states have already announced the dates of their back-to-school tax-free shopping days.

This year’s consumer spending forecast is looking rosy for retailers as 56% of the 1,000 parents surveyed by the Rubicon Project in June 2015 planned to spend more money per student on back-to-school shopping than they did in 2014. Like last year, the parents of college students plan to spend more than parents with children in elementary or high school; this year they plan to spend an average of $1,124 per college student compared to $873 per K-12 student. The study also found that although 75% of college students have a paying job, 72% of college parents will foot the bill for back-to-school purchases.

Top retailers are aware that college students and their parents represent a unique marketing opportunity, and many launch targeted back-to-campus events and campaigns aimed to reach college students, especially incoming freshman. Newegg, T-Mobile, and Best Buy recently announced exclusive pricing for college students.

Discounts and sales are a crucial element of retail success this back-to-school season. Rubicon Project found that almost 2/3 of parents admitted that store sales and promotions are the deciding factor in what, where, and when they buy for back-to-school. A new Staples study conducted by Harris Poll found that price is the #1 consideration for parents of 8-18 year old students, and 82% always look for deals and coupons before they head out to go back-to-school shopping.

Technology is also playing an interesting role in this year’s back-to-school story. Almost 50% of parents report that they now spend more time online than in front of a t.v. which is changing the way that they research and buy products, according to Rubicon Project. Google stated that back-to-school searches increased 45% in 2014, and Google users started searching in May and continued through September. Half of all college parents surveyed by Rubicon clicked an online ad within the last week, and nearly half had clicked on a mobile ad. The National Retail Federation (NRF) found that 32% of college shoppers plan to use the internet for comparison shopping this year, up 4% from last year. The number of transactions completed online and on mobile devices has been steadily growing the last few years, and we expect to see that trend in back-to-school shopping habits as well.

Not surprisingly, given the increasing role technology is playing in our daily lives, and millennials’ affinity for tech, over half of parents told Rubicon Project that they intend to buy their college student a laptop, and 46% plan to purchase a tablet for their student for the 2015 fall semester. The top three stores where they plan to make their tech purchases are Walmart, Amazon, and Best Buy. Walmart kicked off their back-to-campus marketing in mid-June with an email blast featuring “tech you want” for college students.

Many of the other retailer leaders and manufacturers of laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other hardware have announced their 2015 back-to-school specials. One player that has been conspicuously silent is Apple. Apple forums and Reddit are currently buzzing as fans try to predict when Apple will announce their 2015 back-to-school deals and what they’ll be promoting this year. In previous years, Apple’s deal has been announced the first Tuesday of July.
We’ll be keeping an eye out for Apple’s special back-to-school offer (anyone else think it will involve Apple Music?), and we’ll post about other back-to-school marketing trends between now and September.


Photo Source: Flickr User andrewarchy

Angela Modzelewski by Angela Modzelewski