school supplies

by Natalie Miller • @natalieatWIS

Study: Social channels fuel back-to-school purchases

Published September 12, 2014


Back-to-school shopping is happily over for millions of parents in the United States. But for retailers looking toward the holidays, the season of spending is just getting started and experts are urging them to pay mind to the habits of the today’s consumer.

“Just like holiday season trends, back-to-school shoppers are driving double digit growth in online retail sales,” says Jon Busman, Senior Analyst, IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark.

Back-to-school shopping has become a major purchasing event with shoppers spending almost $75 billion. IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark found that online retail sales for the month of August were up more than 11 percent compared to the same period last year.

“With shoppers stocking up on new fall clothing and back-to-school supplies, the department store, office supply and electronics, and apparel categories all saw August sales boosts,” Busman adds. “Based on these insights, retailers can use back-to-school as a full dress rehearsal for the holiday season due to the scale and similarities in online behavior."

What the stats say about smartphone shoppers>>

IBM’s Digital Analytics Benchmark found:
  • Smartphones Browse, Tablets Buy: Smartphones drove 27 percent of all online traffic compared to tablets at 13.8 percent, making phones the browsing device of choice. For purchases, tablets drove 11.5 percent of all online sales while smartphones accounted for nearly half of that at 6.2 percent. Tablet users also averaged $110.93 per order, versus smartphone users, who averaged $95.65 per order.
  • iOS vs. Android:  As a percentage of total online sales, iOS was more than four times higher than Android, driving 14.2 percent vs. 3.5 percent for Android. On average, iOS users spent $108.81 per order compared to $77.66 for Android users, a difference of 40 percent. iOS also led as a component of overall traffic with 27.4 percent vs. 13.7 percent for Android

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Expectedly, the study found that an increase in mobile traffic and sales.In August, mobile accounted for 41.5 percent of all online traffic, up 34 percent compared to the same period last year. Mobile sales are also up, reaching 7.8 percent of all online sales. 

“Mobile-enabled shoppers are always browsing and constantly researching,” explains Busman. “This back-to-school season, busy parents preferred browsing and buying via their mobile devices. Looking towards the holidays, retailers can expect mobile sales to continue growing. We predict the mobile percentage of traffic reaching an estimated 43 percent and the percentage of sales via mobile will reach 20 percent.” 

Based on these insights, retailers can use back-to-school as a full dress rehearsal for the holiday season due to the scale and similarities in online behavior.

Jon Busman, Senior Analyst, IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark

To benefit from this growth, Bussman says retailers should be poised to deliver an engaging and personalized mobile experience that is linked across consumer buying channels. The development of a strong, engaging social media presence is also critical, as social media reviews and recommendations now hold more weight among shoppers and have therefore become a valuable sales channel for many retailers.

However the Benchmark study shows that not all social channels are created equal. According to the findings, shoppers referred from Facebook averaged $113.20 per order, versus Pinterest referrals, which drove $142.76 per order. Yet, Facebook referrals converted sales at a rate more than three times that of Pinterest referrals.

“Going into the holiday shopping season, retailers with a strong social media presence will benefit from this trend,” says Busman. He adds that not only should retailers engage with customers during a service query, but they should also strive to co-create experiences with shoppers. “Retailers can strengthen customer relationships by offering early access to merchandise, premium social content, special discounts, or exclusive sales. However retailers need to enable their shoppers to spread the experience and amplify their shopper’s recommendations across social networks.



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