The Technology Takes Back-To School Shopping to the Next Level This Year You can buy in what, where and how you want.

Back-to-school shopping, a year-end ritual for students, is also a significant milestone for parents. Parents get to mark their child’s maturity and growth with an abundance of size and age-appropriate items.

This year the National Retail Federation predicts parents will spend $37.1 billion on back-to-school (BTS) shopping, a 9.4% uptick from last year. Deloitte, using a different methodology and survey sample, expects an even stronger bump this year, with total spending rising some 16% over last year.

No matter what the source of their money, parents will spend more this school year to help their kids back-to-school. Deloitte found that 78% of families felt they were in an equal or better financial position than last year.

With each passing day comes more uncertainty about their child’s back-to school experience. Parents and school boards have been left in shock by the lack of a vaccine for their children’s age and confusing information from the CDC.

These uncertainty may slow down parents’ spending, even though they are trying to finish back-to school shopping as soon as possible. Deloitte reported that parents intended to spend nearly 60% on their BTS purchases before the end July. NRF, however, found that less than 20% had done their BTS shopping by July’s first survey.

The longer parents wait, the more likely they are to disappoint their kids in securing the must-have items on their BTS shopping list, including backpacks, sneakers and the most in-demand items of all, technology tools and gadgets.

Technology is now the must-have accessory for BTS.

Rod Sides (Deloitte vice chairman, and U.S. leader for retail and distribution) says that “for the past couple of years we have been seeing the shift to tech”

He continues, “We have seen a 37% increase year-over year in technology product spending this year,” he said. The 28% rise in technology spending between 2019 and 2020 follows this.

Sides’ surprise is the fact that, despite all of the tech spending growth last year due to in-home education, this year there is even more demand for technology.

He shares that “a lot of parents recognize the fact that if they want their kids to keep up with technology, then they will have to invest in it.”

Even more shocking is the type of technology gadgets parents plan to buy this year. These include cell phones, tablets, e-readers, wearables and digital subscriptions for educational programs. Parents will see an increase in e-learning as they feel that their kids’ learning is behind the times.

Expect 48% growth in tech gadget spending compared to last year. This will allow for tech gadget spending to equal $5.9 trillion each. Computer spending, however, will increase by 28%.

This year’s trend is to get the latest wearables, and carry the most trendy gadgets. Spending on clothes and accessories has remained flat this year. Amazon, for example, notes that cases for consumer electronics are up 86% year over year as of April with the OtterBox case for iPhone 12 among its hottest items.

Sides says that “tech is taking over” this school year, because it reduces the need for paper and other traditional school supplies like pens, notebooks, or pencils. However, technology will only make a small difference this year.

BTS Shopping is powered by technology

This year, technology will power parents’ shopping. BTS will spend more online.

Parents plan to keep their in-store spending under control after an unexpected increase in online shopping last year. They expect an increase in online spending, going from 37% to 39% by 2020.

Sides states that “if you go back to before the pandemic the amount spent in-store was higher than online,” The lines of percentage share online and in-store are merging today. We believe that there has been a shift in channel mix. A lot of parents have figured out it is easier to buy online, which is assisted by the new ways retailers are adapting with buy-online-pickup-in-store and curbside pickup.”

They will shop at brick-and mortar stores. Dollar stores and mass merchants will be their top choices, but specialty clothes stores, office supply stores and tech shops, as well as traditional department stores and fast fashion apparel retailers, will see little traffic increase.

Mass merchants are expected to lose ground in 2018, with 74% of those surveyed expecting to shop at these stores, compared to 81%.

Parents will be able to make informed decisions about their children’s BTS through technology. Social media will be used by more parents to assist with shopping. This is an increase of 25% to 40% from last year.

Social media is a tool that parents use to view product offerings. 42% of them visit retailers’ sites on social media to see if the company is worthy. Retailers need to be clear about their purpose and personality on both their website as well as their social media platforms.

More BTS shoppers are planning to use advanced technology-enabled shopping options this year. These include shopping with a digital wallet, voice assistant and buy buttons for social media posts. These advanced ecommerce capabilities are easier to adopt because of the younger age of parents of children aged school.

Sides concluded that “The technology shift is the major macro story of this year.” Digital is everywhere and the pace of digital engagement is increasing throughout BTS’s shopping experience, which has an impact on what school supplies are required and how parents find them.

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