Typically, the back to school shopping season is a peak sales time. This year, the back to school season is nothing but full of uncertainty. Since the plans to reopen schools keep changing, parents are taking a wait-and-see approach to buy school supplies. 

Some states intend to return to in-person classes, while some districts are resuming a hybrid approach. Parents are unsure if kids will need backpacks or zoom-friendly shirts. Merchants are unsure of where to focus their marketing strategies. Retailers that are used to having a prime season during July and August, will need to adapt to a changing market.  

In this post, we’ll analyze the impact of the changes and give you tips to adapt to the new normal. 

How Is Back to School Shopping Changing in the New Normal?

COVID-19 is affecting how people work, live and spend. It is also affecting the way we learn. While most schools were closed for two months or more, teachers resorted to alternate methods of learning. This didn’t impress parents, which are concerned with academic readiness for the next grade. 

COVID-19 changed the learning format

According to the Deloitte consumer survey, over 79% of families got digital learning content for school, during school closures, with 32% having classes via live-stream.This requires digital equipment, laptops and desktop computers. 

 However, not all the alternatives were well received by parents, who preferred live streaming sessions and digital learning content to other learning resources. 

There is high uncertainty about the new school season- 

Since it is unclear yet what format will school take place this year, shoppers are uncertain about what to buy and when. Besides health concerns, almost half of lower income shoppers have financial concerns. since they would need to buy technology equipment that is expensive.

The New Spending Trends

Increase in Tech Purchases

Customers want to be prepared. Therefore, parents are shifting their purchases, just in case schools don’t reopen and students’ requirements change. 

There is a marked increase in tech purchases, specially in the category of computers and hardware. In addition, parents are turning into digital resources to supplement or substitute in-person school education. This includes e-learning platforms, licenses for educational tools and digital devices.

Increase in online shopping  

48% of customers still feel unsafe going to stores to make back to school purchases. As a result, online shopping has not decreased. On the contrary, have gained terrain from in-store purchases. Therefore, physical stores are incorporating online stores and applications,  

Another trending pattern is the increase in shopping using personal computers instead of mobile, because of customers staying and working from home more. 

Although consumers still prefer buying school supplies on big retailers, almost half of customers intend to purchase back to school supplies on online stores. Moreover,  online shopping is the preferred way of shopping for higher income buyers. 

Retailers will have to adapt to catch these changes in consumer habits. Now is not the time to wait for what happens with the stimulus and the schools reopening. Companies should pivot and catch the opportunity of back to school sales. 

5 Tips to Adapt your Business to the New Normal

Focus on Online Shopping

Back to school, shopping involves adding up a list of low value items. It is easy to just throw them in the cart while checking off the list. Searching for and adding things to an online cart is often a bit more complicated. 

You can help your customers by easing the online purchasing experience. Features like collection pages that bundle related or frequently used products can ease the customer experience. 

Another obstacle is the shipping cost. Justifying shipping on large purchases is one thing, but school supplies orders are rarely worth paying shipping. To overcome this obstacle, you can offer free shipping with a minimum order purchase amount. 

Shift Your Marketing to Electronic and Technology

Until last year, clothing and accessories were the largest share of the back to school shopping. Uniforms, backpacks, shoes and accessories, for example. However, shopping trends have shifted away from these. Companies should then focus their offers to essentials like pens, notebooks, and technology items.

Improve Your on-site search

Help your customers find what they are looking for by improving your search box. Some pointers that can be helpful:

  • Make the search box visible and at the top of the page. 
  • Add autocomplete to make the search easier
  • Add a “recommended product” feature. This will help you upsell complementary add-ons and show customers related items.

 Use Discounts and Special Offers

Price is still the most important factor in influencing back to school shopping. You can attend to this demand by offering discounts and offers, like bundle discounts or a certain amount off with purchases over certain orders. 

Offer Convenience

Customers demand more convenience than ever because of the stress of juggling work and home life during the pandemic. Nobody has time or patience for long or complicated purchasing journeys. Offer your customers features that maximize their convenience, like same-day delivery, curbside pickup, or a mobile shopping app. 

The Bottom Line

Uncertain times call for innovative solutions. Companies on the back to school market should adapt to these trying times by following these tips: 

  • Shifting into technology and essential items. 
  • Focusing on online shopping
  • Improving your search features 
  • Tap on convenience

Although it is still unsure what shape will take this school year, hopefully, this article can help you convert your visitors and increase on back to school sales.