Back-To-School Marketing & Shopping Trends [2022 Guide]

August 8, 2022
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Updated on August 8, 2022

Despite inflation and the uncertainties of a possible recession looming, back-to-school spending is expected to reach a whopping $37 billion in 2022.

And that’s mainly because more than 38% of parents consider back-to-school spending essential. They’re planning to cut back spending in other areas just to make it work (and that’s not all they’re doing, as you’ll see later in this report).

So since your customers are already committed to spending this back-to-school (BTS) season, there’s no reason your brand can’t reach its BTS sales goals. You simply need to leverage a bit of data to attract and convert shoppers away from your competitors. 

This 2022 back-to-school trends report has you covered. You’ll find all the back-to-school shopping trends and statistics you need to fuel your marketing strategies for greatness.

We’ll explore:

  1. Market Size and Spend 
  2. Peak Shopping Times 
  3. Consumer Behavior and Trends 
  4. Leading Niches and Product Categories 
  5. Creating a Back-to-School Sales Promotion Strategy

Back-to-School Marketing Trends and Online Shopping Statistics To Fuel 2022 Strategies

1. Back-to-School Market Size and Spend 

While many feared that a potential recession would tank back-to-school spending, the opposite is actually coming true.

As we mentioned earlier, BTS spending will average $37 billion, which is on par with record-breaking BTS spending in 2021. Elementary through high school-aged parents anticipate spending roughly $864 on school supplies, up $15 from last year.

When Statista asked parents what they expect to spend by category, they budgeted (on average):

The back-to-college market is even stronger. It’s predicted to reach
$74 billion, a $3 billion increase in spending from last year. Parents anticipate spending an average of $1,200 on college or university items per student, which is $223 more than they were spending pre-pandemic.

Main Takeaway: Parents are willing to spend on back-to-school items and consider supplies a necessity. This is excellent news for retailers, especially eCommerce brands. But you still need to handle your BTS marketing strategy properly to beat your competitors for sales.

2. Back-to-School Peak Shopping Times

The even better news is that you still have time to capture the back-to-school market if you’re a bit late to the game. Only 25% of people say they already purchased things like bookbags, books, etc., early in the BTS season. 

But upwards of 88% of parents are still waiting on their school’s supply list, which means they haven’t finished shopping yet.

Another reason why people are holding off on BTS shopping? To wait for better deals to come out.

Main Takeaway: There’s still time to drive back-to-school sales. But that’s only going to happen if consumers find value in what your brand has to offer.

So if you hold flash sales and offer targeted promotions, shoppers will be eager to snatch up your products at a killer deal (and you’ll quickly capture the sale).

But just because your shoppers are waiting to the last minute doesn’t mean you should. Consumers may spend all their BTS shopping budget before your offers roll in their inbox or social media feed. So it would be smarter to act on today’s marketing strategies sooner than later.

3. Consumer Behavior and Trends 

Inflation has increased spending by roughly 8%, leaving 33% of parents worse off financially than last year. However, 37% of parents plan to make BTS buying work, no matter what.

It should be no surprise that 84% of parents expect to see higher prices this back-to-school season. When surveyed, these parents say they expect to pay more in the following categories:

NRF, July 6, 2022

But, because parents have assumed prices are going up, they’re being more proactive and implementing money-saving tactics like:

The Top Cost-Saving Tactics Parents Are Using This School Year

Source: NRF’s annual 2022 June survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics

Another interesting point to note is where consumers are shopping for their back-to-school items:

Where Parents Plan to Shop This School Year

Source: NRF’s Annual 2022 Back-to-School Survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics

Main Takeaway: Yes, inflation is top of mind for shoppers. But it’s not stopping them from spending money on back-to-school supplies.

Consumers plan to cut back in other areas, work more, and take other steps to cover their BTS costs, such as using buy now, pay later plans.

So if your product is back-to-school related, now’s not the time to cut your marketing spend. Start promoting your products ASAP, especially if they fall under a leading niche or product category.

4. Leading Niches and Product Categories 

With in-person learning back for the most part, there’s been an uptick in sales in spending categories such as Clothing and Accessories (+18%), School Supplies (+7%), and products related to Covid-19 (+7%).

Niche product categories are gaining momentum as well.

Parents with sustainability in mind spend more than 22% on average compared to other shoppers. And when it comes to mental health and wellness, parents will pay about 8% more than the average consumer.

Technology-related products, surprisingly, have seen a decline of nearly 8%.

Main Takeaway: If your products fall under these leading school supply categories, or fit into an emerging (and lucrative) niche, get ready to make that final BTS push.

Make sure to highlight how your brand or its products are more sustainable or environmentally friendly. Think about how they could make the school year less stressful for students and encourage a happier learning mindset. 

These features can all enhance your marketing strategy, help you stand out from competitors, and attract new buyers (who spend more!).

You should also offer targeted promotions to parents most likely to make a purchase. These personalized offers help your brand easily capture more customers and sales. Learn more about how these work by clicking that link.

5. Creating a Converting 2022 Back-to-School Sales Promotion Strategy

Yes, inflation is a concern for parents, but it isn’t stopping them from getting everything they need to make this school year a success for their children. 

Many are holding out for better deals. So if you haven’t met your 2022 back-to-school sales targets, it’s not too late to finish the season strong.

Bonus Content: 12 Sales Promotion Examples That Convert

Start adding flash sales throughout your back-to-school marketing campaign calendar. Then tailor your offers for each shopper – these can be personalized by price, convenience, product, etc. 

This personalized touch ensures you connect with consumers and successfully boost sales while limiting profit loss and maintaining brand equity. Your brand will then edge out the competition and score stellar numbers this BTS season.

Final Takeaway

Don’t give up on back-to-school shopping, or write off the year as a loss due to inflation, just yet. Parents are doing everything they can to fulfill their child’s back-to-school list. So it’s up to your brand to provide value in what you’re offering.

Here’s an easy back-to-school strategy to wrap up the season:

  1. Take a fresh look at your marketing calendar to see how you can make your final sales push worthwhile.
  2. Offer discounts and price incentives along each touchpoint, so shoppers don’t miss a great offer.
  3. Combine categories and offer complementary products to boost the convenience factor for parents.
  4. Focus on the back-to-school products or niches that drive the most conversions.
  5. Optimize your sales promotions through customer intent.

Follow those tips and the others outlined in this report, and you’ll have no trouble converting parents this school year.

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