Back to School 2014: A Social AND Shopping Occasion

September 9th, 2014

Back to School 2014: A Social Event AND a Shopping Occasion

badge-researchThat chill in the air and football everywhere tells us that Fall is finally back, but for those of us who are parents it means something even more important – school is back!

I, like many of you, spent much of our prep time hurtling from store to store with our kids buying everything from supplies to shoes in a mad dash, and now it’s done.

But that journey made me wonder – How are others describing this process? Is it the same wild rush for other parents as it is for me? What can we learn about this experience that is Back to School? After all, this is a tremendously important time for retailers: the National Retail Federation’s research indicates that for 2014 the average household will spend well over $650, and the majority of households intend to spend as much or more as they did in 2013.

Retail Intelligence firm Wiser published a great infographic with many more stats about this season, including one that stood out for me: Total US expected expenditure for Back to School is over $75 billion.

Our crack analyst, Emily Daniel, collected over 30,000 mentions of the top US retailers connected to Back to School between August 1 and August 25 – over 220 million impressions represented here. And throughout our analysis, we found a few recurring themes:

The first day of school is not the first day for showing off.

We found a significant number of YouTube uploads from students like this one – videos showing off their gear to the world well in advance of their first day in a classroom. They’re called haul videos, where vloggers can show their “haul” from their most recent shopping trip.

This trend hit strong with Back to School – an event where students generally get a lot of new stuff anyway, and they’re eager to show it off. Retailers can take advantage of this phenomenon by partnering with content creators, specifically through creator-dedicated marketplaces like ViewMarket.

Experience beats efficiency for conversation.

With 32% of the conversations analyzed, Target won the battle for Share of Voice, but only slightly. Walmart came in with 30%, then Kohl’s and Amazon tied for 3rd at 14%. What surprised me is that, while Amazon wins the time-savings battle for the time-starved Mom far beyond what Target and Walmart can provide, they’re nowhere near as discussed. Back to School conversation is still about the physical experience of shopping, and retailers with a brick-and-mortar presence can take tremendous advantage of those assets during this time.

Students need supplies, but the talk is about Clothes.

Apparel mentions led all other products mentioned in this study by more than 50% – and backpacks came in second, which can be arguably considered a part of the same category.

While all students are going to need their notebooks and binders and #2 pencils, those aren’t the things they or their parents talk about – it’s the clothes. This could be a part of why Target won for Share of Voice as well – their focus on chic design on the cheap, and apparel in general, puts them in a strong position for garnering the passion of their customers.

For more information about this study, including a detailed breakdown of voices participating by student/parent and even by grade level, check out the MutualMind blog, or flip through our study on Slideshare below:

Back to School 2014 was a whirlwind season, but a bell-weather for important trends to come: The role of hauler videos; the passion of apparel; the allure of a physical shopping experience.

Retailers will have their hands full with next year, but we hope they’ll take advantage of these growing consumer trends.

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