Back-to-School Shopping a Lesson in E-Commerce

The weeks leading up to the start of school have long been a roaring time for retailers, but as the annual school supply and apparel festivities move online, they offer a lesson in online shopping for consumers of the future.

According to a survey by NFO WorldGroup, 74 percent of parents who shop online for back-to-school items are allowing their children to participate in the shopping process with parental guidance. There is clearly a give-and-take relationship between the parents’ choices and the kids’ influence in what finally gets loaded into the shopping cart.

At least 72 percent of the kids get to pick colors of parent-identified items. The kids managed the actual point-and-click aspect of shopping 48 percent of time, and at least have some say in guiding the activity 34 percent of the time. About 47 percent of the time, kids negotiate trade-offs in parent-identified items and up to 42 percent of the time, it is the kids who suggest the Web sites to traffic. As the experience approaches checkout time, 33 percent of the kids are still participating in the process and 24 percent are still there right up until the final loading of the shopping cart.

“School-age children are clearly major influencers in the back-to-school shopping experience, right up until it comes time to add in the credit card,” said Jennifer Park, vice president product management, NFO InDepth Interactive at NFO WorldGroup. “When it comes to clothes, books and even the supplies they choose, kids are very particular about brands and styles selected in even the simplest items.”

And where the physical mall was once the only place to be for back-to-school shopping, virtual malls and traditional retailers and their online counterparts are the leading sites parents are targeting for their purchases. Of parents with children in grades K to 12 who participated in the survey, 52 percent said they would be visiting Target.com, and 48 percent will be clicking away at JCPenney.com and L.L. Bean.

Respondents to the NFO survey were given 11 sites to choose from. Add to Target, JC Penney and L.L. Bean, ranked from the most popular to the least popular, were Gap.com (41 percent); Amazon.com (35 percent); Bluelight.com (29 percent); Staples.com (26 percent); LandsEnd.com (20 percent); OfficeMax.com (19 percent); EddieBauer.com (17 percent), and bn.com (7 percent).

More than half (53 percent) of online shopping families plan to spend about the same amount as last year, 40 percent indicated they would be spending more online this year. Only 7 percent surveyed suggested that they would spend less than last year in the next three months.

The survey also asked parents what items were on their kids’ shopping lists, and 55 percent said supplies were needed; 54 percent cited sportswear and outerwear as must-haves in the next three months, 46 percent needed new shoes or boots. A hugely popular back-to-school purchase is backpacks, with 44 percent of respondents noting that they plan to purchase a backpack online in the next three months. An interesting finding in the survey showed that only 23 percent said that they planned to buy books online in the months ahead.

The survey was fielded using NFO InDepth Interactive’s Fast Feedback product. It was completed by 3,589 online panelists, was weighted to be representative of households who are currently online. Of those who received the survey, 1,080 indicated that they had children in Grades K-12, and 384 plan to shop online for back-to-school supplies within the next three months.

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