The Checkout Shopper-Behavior Study Explores This Year’s Back-To-School Season

The most recent issue of The Checkout, an ongoing shopper-behavior study conducted by The Integer Group® and M/A/R/C® Research, explores the back-to-school shopping period, one of the most competitive times of year for retailers hoping to earn shopper dollars. The study takes an in-depth look at the nuances of the routine and priorities for shoppers this season as well as investigates new considerations for brands and retailers.

Male vs. Female Back-to-School Shoppers

The majority of shopping is done two to three weeks before school starts, when inventory is high, more choices are available and deals are prevalent. While female shoppers do most of their shopping at this time, 33 percent indicate delaying shopping until the week of or even after school starts, compared to just 20 percent of men. Women have a heightened focus on price, which is most likely the reason they delay shopping. While they know deals will hit stores early, years of practice tell them that the best deals tend to kick in later in the season. Conversely, men prioritize efficiency, seeking to complete back-to-school shopping more quickly and when all items are in stock at expected discounted prices.

Back-to-School Values and Priorities Beyond Low Prices and Good Deals

Price is the top priority for back-to-school shoppers. However, finding the best deal is no longer the most interesting or best part of shopping. While 76 percent of shoppers prioritize finding low-cost items, the number of shoppers who prioritize having fun during back-to-school shopping is growing (30 percent of shoppers, up from 25 percent two years ago). And while women are on the hunt for the best price, they are also more likely than men to desire fun experiences and exploration while shopping, which leads to a variety of shopping experiences and environments, primarily mass, discount, online and clothing stores. Retailers and brands should recognize that seeking low prices and shopping for deals are ingrained, baseline behaviors for shoppers, and these shoppers are now also seeking enhanced shopping experiences.

Student Influence on Back-to-School Shopping

When it comes to item types, such as brand names and the newest versions of back-to-school products, “kidfluence” is an important factor in the decision-making process, with kid preference and request reaching a peak of influence in middle school. Combined with the fact that students participate in 49 percent of back-to-school shopping trips, students influence both the items that ultimately make it into the cart and the shopping experience.

On the shopper side, shoppers with preschool- and elementary-age students have a greater emotional and personal investment in getting the back-to-school shopping experience “right.” They represent a huge opportunity for brands and retailers to establish relationships and shopping patterns for years to come by helping shoppers feel prepared and facilitating enjoyable shopping experiences. Shoppers who have young students along on the trip are also more than twice as likely to think about how back-to-school products will reflect on them as parents than shoppers who shop with students in high school. They care more about proving to themselves and others that they know what they’re doing and that their student is well prepared for the school year.