Amazon Prime Day has kicked off the three-month-long back-to-school shopping season – the longest and second-most important period for retailers in the U.S. About three quarters (76%) of retail marketers say they’re investing more in back-to-school marketing this year, according to deals site RetailMeNot’s 2018 Back To School Trends & Insights Guide emailed to Retail Dive.
Nearly 80% of retailers will offer more discounts, and three of four plan to offer deeper discounts this year than in previous years, according to the report.
Nearly 70% of shoppers said they look for more savings during this season than they do during other times of the year (up from only 36% last year), and 65% said that final price is the biggest determining factor in their back-to-school purchases. More than half of shoppers plan to shop for non-school items during their back-to-school shopping trips if they find a good deal. All told, spending will be up across all categories, with shoppers expected to pay nearly $200 each on clothing and electronics.
Retailers are treating Amazon Prime Day as the back-to-school kick-off point — 84% of retailers surveyed by RetailMeNot believe back-to-school shopping began on or before that day this year.
It's not just the timing that looks a bit different this year, according to the report. Retailers are using in-store events (52%), brand collaborations (47%), traveling marketing campaigns (41%) and free food/drinks (39%) to attract shoppers. Despite the influence of Prime Day, in-store marketing remains key for the season, with nearly all caregivers (96%) heading to a brick-and-mortar store at least once during back-to-school season, and more than half (58%) doing most of their shopping there.
Retailers' in-store efforts might help take the sting out of a shopping errand that can have both caregivers and students seething. Most American parents (75%) and teens (73%) say back-to-school shopping causes tension, with the question of whether to buy a budget or name brand a major stressor, according to research from shopping rewards program Ebates that was emailed to Retail Dive.
But there's more evidence than ever that Prime Day has moved the season up. The top predicted shopping days this year include Prime Day (July 16-17), the first weekend in August (Aug. 3-5) and Labor Day weekend (Aug. 31-Sept. 3), Retailmenot said. Social media is an increasingly important marketing tool, especially Instagram (69%) and Facebook Live (67%).
Not all families are sticking to the season, however. Although consumers do plan to buy personal care items, gift cards and food for school, many plan to buy them as needed throughout the school year rather than stocking up for the entire semester, the National Retail Federation said. And with electronics — including laptops, tablets and smartphones — now an everyday part of household life, they aren't necessarily a purchase parents save for the start of the school year, according to the National Retail Federation, resulting in a slight decrease in spending for this category during the season.