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Back-to-School Shoppers Rely on Smartphones and Social Networks


Digital Intelligence

Back-to-School Shoppers Rely on Smartphones and Social Networks

AUGUST 16, 2012

Pinterest also proving popular for back-to-school shopping research

Parents will be taking note of more than just school supply lists as they head into retail stores for back-to-school shopping this fall. Although school shopping will mostly occur in stores rather than online, shoppers are increasingly turning to smartphones and social networks for product research, coupons and shopping advice.

According to a July 2012 study by consulting and advisory firm Deloitte, 65% of US parents who owned a smartphone planned to use the device to assist with back-to-school shopping this year. Although that’s only up from 64% a year ago, parents will rely more on smartphone functionality than they did in 2011. Deloitte found the most popular smartphone uses for back-to-school shopping included getting price information, downloading discounts, coupons and sale information, and viewing retailer ads. Parents will be conducting all of those activities to a higher degree than in 2011.











Deloitte also found that parents will be increasingly turning to social networks to strategize their back-to-school shopping plans. Of US parents who planned to use social networks for back-to-school shopping, 70% will do so to find out about promotions, 49% to browse products and 39% to read reviews or recommendations. The popularity of visiting retailers’ pages on social networks has also increased over the past two years. In 2010, only 20% visited retailers’ pages; in 2011, that rose to 28%; and in 2012, 36% planned to stop by brand social network pages for shopping purposes.








In terms of where parents planned to actually make back-to-school purchases, Deloitte found that brick-and-mortars were still king. Only 20% of parents planned to shop online this year. However, parents were consulting a number of web sources before hitting malls and discount stores. According to a July survey from Burst Media, an internet advertising network, more than half of parents planned to consult web-based coupons or promotions before purchasing. And nearly 43% said that internet ads would influence their purchase decisions for back-to-school shopping.  Interestingly, 20% said Pinterest would be of influence to their shopping trips this year, further demonstrating the impact of social networks on US shopping.











Although only one in five parents will be purchasing back-to-school products online this year, according to Deloitte’s survey, both online and brick-and-mortar merchants should take note of the massive impact social networks and smartphone devices are having on consumer shopping. Moreover, as retailers prepare for the 2012 holiday shopping season, they should craft their marketing strategies with an eye toward online incentives and smartphone-optimized tools.