Back-to-school shopping growth this year is being spurred notably by online sales and mobile payments, according to A.T. Kearney's annual Back-to-School Consumer Shopping Perspectives report.
The study, which surveyed more than 1,000 adult shoppers, suggests retailers need to understand that "omnichannel is the new normal," and millennial mobile habits are becoming increasingly important in influencing back-to-school shopping behavior.
"With a 15% year-over-year increase in e-commerce traffic, retailers need to ensure that their mobile, web, tablet, and social media experience is on par with the market. Simultaneously, they need to focus on providing a unique and personalized in-store experience, facilitated by in-store technology," according to the report.
This study comes a few weeks after the National Retail Foundation's annual back-to-school survey found that spending was likely to surge as much as 10% above the $83.6 billion spent last year on back-to-school purchases. It's not surprising to see another study predicting positive growth, but it certainly adds to the sector's confidence that the 2017 back-to-school shopping period will be a strong one.
The 2016 season actually surpassed many expectations that the retail sector had heading into it after a somewhat disappointing 2015 back-to-school shopping season. The 2016 spending period also arguably was the first back-to-school shopping period that tested retailers' developing omnichannel strategies. In fact, the 2016 version of A.T. Kearney's back-to-school study revealed 80% of those surveyed last year were interested in using mobile apps and promotions while in-store, about 50% more than had been interested in doing so in 2015.
Physical stores are definitely part of the omnichannel picture, and another recent study, from the International Council of Shopping Centers, backed up the notion that while mobile shopping is increasing, so is mobile in-store activity. The ICSC study showed that 81% of back-to-school shoppers said they would use their smartphones in-store for needs ranging from price comparisons to online ordering to inventory checks and downloading of digital coupons.
Demographics play a major role in this increasing significance of omnichannel. Gen Z is heading off to college and becoming an increasingly strong segment for the broader back-to-school shopping market. Millenials, as A.T. Kearney pointed out, also are playing a bigger role. These are the generations fueling increasing mobile shopping activity and interest in omnichannel notions like ship-to-store and online ordering while in-store. That makes it clearer than ever that back-to-school shopping is now an omnichannel event.