eCommerce Solutions: Generation Z Goes Back to School

0 min read

Francis Pilon

Summer is almost over and back to school season is right around the corner. While this time of year doesn’t compare to the holiday shopping season, it’s an important precursor for how retailers are going to market, operate, promote, and deliver during Thanksgiving, Christmas, and holiday season.

The biggest challenge predicted for retailers this year is catering to a new demographic as Generation Z comes of age and goes back to school.

Back to school consumption has grown 42% in the past 10 years, and this year a total of $24.9 billion will be spent during the typically short selling season. Overall, shoppers are predicted to spend $68 billion, including expenses for college students.

“As seen over the last 13 years, spending on ‘back to school’ has consistently fluctuated based on children’s needs each year, and it’s unlikely most families would need to restock and replenish apparel, electronic, and supplies every year,” said National Retail Federation President and CEO, Matthew Shay. According to a survey from ShopperTrack, 29% of households with children ages 6 to 17 plan to spend more this year for back to school, compared with 24% who said the same thing a year earlier.

Shifting Purchasing Power

However, what seems to be shifting during the back to school season is who is make the purchasing decisions. It’s the students, or Generation Z, who have an incredible influence over what and how items are purchased.

“I believe this back to school season we will see more teens and tweens seeking options that allow them to design, create, and customize back to school items, from clothes to pencils to lunchboxes. They don’t care where they come from -- the big retailers and little online startups have equal opportunity to gain Generation Z’s business. Startups may even have the advantage as they are viewed as unique and more exclusive,” said Marcie Merriman, Executive Director, Growth Strategy and Retail Innovation, EY.

Online Purchasing

An increasingly amount of back to school shoppers are gravitating toward online shopping; therefore, retailers should follow suit and expand their online promotions.

Consumers who use digital convert at a 20% higher rate, according to ShopperTrak, and those using social media during the process are four times more likely to spend. The same notion applies for back to school shopping. Digital use and online spending will make up a large portion of back to school purchases this year, as FatWallet reports 53% of adults will buy back to school items online and 7% via mobile.

Digital will remain a large part of the research process for back to school shopping. According to Deloitte’s annual “Back-to-School” and “Back-to-College” surveys, in-store purchases of electronics and apparel are largely influenced by devices used during shopping trips.

49% of every dollar spent on apparel in a physical store was digitally influenced, and 62 cents of every dollar in the electronics category. Back to school shopping will be no different as 8 in 10 smartphone owners who took the Deloitte survey plan to use their device in the shopping process, a 6% increase from 2014.

Next Steps

So what can retailers do to ready themselves for this short but busy season? Look back at historical data, benchmarks, and trends. This way, retailers can make sure to be fully staffed during days and hours when visits are expected to peak. Also, pay close attention to local school start dates to meet local market demand.

Finally, omnichannel is an important buzzword to keep in mind as retailers need to tailor the experience to suit shoppers looking both online and offline. This means engaging mobile visitors to ensure in-store and online inventory match.

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