Kids, coupons, and social media among top influences for US parents shopping back-to-school

August 3, 2022
  • 57% of US parents say their kids influence their back-to-school purchases.
  • Half of Millennial parents shop back to school from a mobile device.
  • 58% of parents agree that back-to-school shopping is stressful compared to just 19% in 2019.
  • 71% of parents say convenience is more important than price when back-to-school shopping.

As the start of the 2022-23 school year gets closer, Mintel research reveals that nearly three in five US parents (57%) say they look to their kids for what to buy when back-to-school shopping, including 64% of moms and 50% of dads. And while moms prioritize school recommendations (41%) and promotions/coupons (40%), brand familiarity (32%) and social media (33%) are dads’ go-to sources for back-to-school shopping. Retailer recommendations (15%) and ‘other parents’ (13%) seem to be the last places parents look for shopping ideas.

Regardless of where the inspiration comes from, parents are increasingly shopping on their phones with nearly half (47%) of all US parents shopping from a mobile device for the 2021-22 school year, compared to just 17% who shopped for school supplies on a mobile device the previous school year. Millennial parents are the most likely to shop online (71%) and from a mobile device (51%) compared to 40% of Gen X and older parents who shopped on a mobile device for supplies for the 2021-22 school year. 

Brittany Steiger, Senior Retail and eCommerce Analyst, at Mintel said:

“Brands looking to leverage the popularity of social media and many parents’ propensity to shop online should consider social commerce and influencer marketing strategies. TikTok’s appeal and expanding popularity make it a great channel to help brands and retailers engage with Gen Z and younger parents by starting their own challenges or hashtags, or by participating in existing ones. Fashion retailer American Eagle is leveraging TikTok to connect with its core audience and spread a message of positivity and optimism. Their 2022-23 back-to-school campaign includes a weekly live shopping show on the platform that highlights influencers and store associates across the US to get consumers excited to shop for the new school year.

“Retailers and brands should look to technology to streamline the back-to-school path to purchase, both online and in-store. QR codes, smart carts, and contactless payments are great ways to engage shoppers in-store, while virtual try-on capabilities and flexible payment options like BOPIS (buy online pick-up in-store) help meet the demand for convenience online. Brands and retailers should continue to invest in their online presence and omnichannel capabilities to deliver seamless and enjoyable experiences to consumers wherever, and however, they decide to shop.”

Brands need to focus on convenience, value, and stress reduction 

Value is a key driver behind early back-to-school shopping. The overwhelming majority of parents (89%) take advantage of big sales events throughout the year, including summer sales like Amazon Prime Day, to shop for school items. Parents are also looking for convenience when it comes to back-to-school shopping as 71% say convenience is more important than price when shopping for items. 

When it comes to where back-to-school shoppers are finding what they need, Walmart was the top 2021-22 back-to-school shopping destination for parents (65%). When comparing back-to-school shopping for the 2019-20 school year (pre-pandemic) to the 2021-22 school year (during the pandemic), Target dropped down the list for parents (50% in 2019 v 46% in 2021), while Amazon moved up the list (45% in 2019 v 53% in 2021). Amazon’s increase in popularity is largely driven by the fact that it is the first go-to online retailer, as 49% of US consumers start an online shopping journey on Amazon.

Whether shopping in-store, on a mobile device, over the summer or the night before the first day, it’s clear that many parents are overwhelmed. Nearly three in five (58%) US parents agree that back-to-school shopping is stressful compared to just 19% who said the same in 2019.

“Our research shows that parents are doing their back-to-school shopping earlier, in a planned and proactive approach, especially considering surging inflation rates and economic uncertainty. As more and more Americans tighten their belts, expect to see value and savings become the focus. Across the board, paid membership programs such as Amazon Prime and Walmart+ add value as consumers seek to maximize membership benefits any way they can. Looking ahead, discount and dollar outlets are expected to make a strong showing in the 2022-23 school year, as parents look for ways to save even more amid widespread inflation,” concluded Steiger.

Additional research on back-to-school shopping and interviews with the analyst are available upon request from the Mintel Press Office. For those interested in purchasing the full report, please visit the Mintel Store.

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