Some 61% of parents plan to increase their back-to-school spending—to an average of $917 per child—according to the consumer pulse report from tech-based ad firm the Rubicon Project. 34% of parents with children in kindergarten through 12th grade and 49% of those with college-age kids have already begun shopping, the survey found: Parents with college students on average will spend $1,378 on child’s back-to-school shopping, nearly twice the $684 for K-12 parents.
Most of those dollars are going to technology purchases like laptops, and for the first time Amazon, rather than brick and mortar, is the number one tech retailer for back-to-school shopping, the Rubicon Project found. Mobile shopping also has hit a stride, with 60% of all parents planning to use mobile devices for at least some back to school shopping and 30% planning to do at least a quarter of it on mobile.
Wal-Mart is the top retailer for apparel (66%) and traditional school supplies (77%). For K-12 parents, Amazon pushed past Staples as the third most popular destination for school supplies compared to 2015, when Staples edged out Amazon 39% to 38%.
Back-to-school shopping used to be all about pencils, calculators and new clothes, but now technology is the focus. Devices are a major shopping channel, too, with 30% of parents planning at least 25% of their back-to-school shopping on a mobile device. Dads (whom the survey found to be an increasing influence on back-to-school activity, though mothers remain the major shoppers for the season) outpace moms in mobile purchasing: 41% of dads said they’ll do at least a quarter of their online shopping on mobile, compared to 24% of moms.
As Rubicon found last year, the shift to digital commerce is due in part to significant changes in viewing habits, with K-12 parents 9% more likely to watch video through a streaming service or other channels/websites daily than they were in 2015 (30% in 2015 vs 39% in 2016). 68% of parents have Netflix and more than two in five stream content each day.
"A strategy of just a banner ad does not fully embrace the shift that mom and dad have made to all forms of digital content, whether they be mobile gaming, extensive video consumption and overall the propensity they have for doing mobile shopping," Rubicon Project's chief communications officer Dallas Lawrence told AdWeek. "Smart brands are going to be embracing a very comprehensive advertising strategy over the next two months to capture the billions of dollars these parents plan to spend online and on mobile getting their kids ready for school.”
Rubicon also found that retailers’ mobile apps are gaining traction, with 47% having downloaded Amazon’s app alone, and 40% of college-bound freshmen parents using at least three shopping apps. 71% of parents plan to use retailer apps before they make a purchase, 66% use mobile apps to compare prices, and 64% use them to search out sales.Parents are also becoming increasingly comfortable with in-app purchases, the survey found, with more than a third of all parents even allowing kids to make in-app purchases.
For this study, polling firm Penn Schoen Berland from June 3rd to June 8th, 2016 conducted 1,506 interviews among parents—1,000 interviews with parents of K-12 kids, and 506 interviews with parents of students entering their freshmen year of college.