Back-to-School Shopping Goes High Tech

Ninety percent of parents of students and college students with Internet access plan to do at least some back-to-school shopping and purchasing this year, according to a study by The NPD Group, Inc.

The NPD/Media Metrix “Back-to-School e-Visory” report found that, among these consumers, more than one-quarter have shopped or plan to shop on the Internet this year. Twenty-eight percent of college students and 26 percent of parents who plan to shop for back-to-school items said they will do so via the Internet. Approximately two-thirds of those who said they’d shop online this back-to-school season have already made an online purchase, the study reported.

E-tailers serving the market may be in for more good news, as most of those who said they will buy online for back to school also said they plan to purchase more on the Internet this year than last year. Fifty-eight percent of parents and 55 percent of college students who said they will purchase online indicated that their online purchasing for back-to-school is expected to be more than that of last year.

The study found that college students purchasing for back to school online or offline expect to spend a slightly greater proportion of their back-to-school dollars online (13 percent) than do parents of students (10 percent).

Among both students and parents, apparel is the most popular category for purchasing online this back-to-school season. Fifty-one percent of parents have purchased or expect to purchase apparel online, while 39 percent of college students have made or will make an apparel purchase online for back to school. Textbooks and general school supplies will also be found in many online shopping carts. Among parents who are purchasing online for back to school, 20 percent will purchase textbooks online, and 32 percent are expected to buy educational supplies. Thirty-eight percent of college students who are purchasing online for back to school will purchase textbooks online, and 27 percent will purchase general school supplies online.

“We find it very interesting that our study has shown textbooks to be almost as prevalently purchased online as apparel among college students who purchase online for back to school,” said Carol Neithercut, vice president of NPD New Media Services. “Apparel is traditionally a large back-to-school purchasing category, and shows a solid online presence as well. For textbooks to be performing as well online as apparel for college students back-to-school purchases shows strength in this back-to-school season for both textbook-specific sites and general bookstore sites.”

Computer-related items are also hot on back-to-school shopping lists this season for parents and college students purchasing online. NPD found that parents are purchasing computer software significantly more than college students are (23 percent vs. 17 percent), while the reverse is true for computer hardware. Twenty-four percent of college students plan to purchase computer hardware online compared to 19 percent of parents for back to school.

These findings should come as little surprise. According to the Best Buy Digital Decade Survey, 24 percent of college freshmen will be packing a laptop computer this year. Eleven percent will be bringing a PDA, such as a Palm Pilot.

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