Consumer Trends and Predictions Shaping Back-to-School Shopping in 2022

07.14.2022 Sara Brasfield5 min

The end of summer is approaching fast, and many parents and children are already getting organized for the upcoming school year. Many retailers are already ahead of the game, setting up seasonal back-to-school displays and running ads and sales featuring popular school supplies.

As with all seasonal shopping trends, the current economic conditions are expected to have a pronounced influence on back-to-school shopping behaviors. Compared to 2021, the 2022 back-to-school shopping season is going to look a lot different—but retailers still have plenty of opportunities to connect with consumers and drive retail sales through advertising that understands how parents are adapting their shopping habits.

Here’s a look at some of the top trends expected to shape back-to-school shopping in the months ahead.

Amid Inflation and Economic Uncertainty, Price Matters More Than Ever

Concerns about the economy are as high as they’ve been since the early days of the pandemic. As inflation continues to soar, and with some economic experts forecasting a looming recession in the months ahead, consumers are already looking for ways to curb spending and manage their money wisely.

Although 84 percent of consumers expect to see higher prices when they start their back-to-school shopping this year, many won’t be content to take the first price they see. Price comparisons are expected to spike this year as shoppers invest more time into finding the best deals. Sixty-four percent of shoppers are expected to plan their shopping around retail sales events.

Consumers have also reported an increased likelihood of using coupons, comparing prices with online retailers, and purchasing generic and store-brand products to control their spending, compared to 2021. The bottom-line is clear: price and value will have a bigger impact on shopping behaviors than in years’ past, and retailers must be prepared to offer competitive prices and alluring promotions if they want to win over shoppers.

School Supplies Can Help Drive Purchases Across Other Categories

Virtually all retail businesses targeting back-to-school products offer this seasonal inventory alongside other goods, including groceries, apparel, and home supplies. While competitive pricing on school supplies may seem to undercut the revenue potential of this selling category, brick-and-mortar retailers should also be mindful of the complementary purchases that may be made by consumers when visiting a store to take advantage of back-to-school bargains.

Recent research suggests that 58 percent of back-to-school shoppers plan on making other purchases alongside their back-to-school buys. Rather than resist the pricing wars anticipated for 2022, businesses should instead look for other ways to increase the size of the shopping carts purchased by shoppers lured in with back-to-school deals.

Strategies for increasing shopping cart sizes can include loyalty programs, escalating discounts for purchases that reach certain dollar thresholds, upselling and cross-selling efforts from sales associates, and strategic placement of related products alongside school supplies. By employing some of these methods of increasing the size of the average transaction, you can offset some of the revenue loss suffered when slashing prices on school supplies—preserving both your market share and your earnings potential for this critical shopping season.

An Early Holiday Shopping Season May Bleed Into the Back-to-School Calendar

Inflation and other economic anxieties aren’t only shaping back-to-school shopping behavior—they’re also prompting some consumers to think ahead and seek out better deals on holiday gifts.

Compared to 2021, 37 percent more U.S. consumers plan to start buying holiday gifts earlier than in previous years. Those consumers are motivated by several factors, ranging from deal-hunting to inflation concerns to fears about continued supply chain issues later this year.

Some retailers are responding by setting up holiday displays and running “Christmas in July” campaigns targeted to eager shoppers. This approach may muddle the typical retail calendar for seasonal displays and advertising, but it could also be an opportunity for your business to bolster summer sales while gaining an early lead on your holiday sales market share.

Many Back-to-School Shoppers Have Already Started Their Search

Although the largest share of back-to-school shopping occurs in August, shortly before the start of local school calendars, many parents are actively shopping for back-to-school bargains throughout July—and, in some cases, even earlier.

This longer shopping window is a product of both inflation fears and deal-hunting, and it demonstrates the extra effort shoppers are willing to make to secure a great deal. For retailers, this is all the more reason to build ad strategies that emphasize price, value and savings into your messaging and in-store promotions, appealing to shifting consumer preferences and enticing shoppers to jump on deals they might find difficult to beat.

Given the unique trends shaping the 2022 back-to-school shopping season, businesses can’t simply recycle their ads and messaging from years’ past. New campaigns and strategies are required to address the current needs and motivations of consumers as you work to drive sales in a hyper-competitive market.

An advertising partner can help you develop and launch a seasonal ad strategy that connects with consumers and helps support your business goals. Contact us today to see how we can help.

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About the Author

Sara Brasfield

Sara is the Content Marketing Manager for Cox Media’s corporate team in Atlanta, with a passion for writing and delivering relevant insights for advertisers. With more than seven years of experience in B2B marketing, Sara aims to help Cox Media’s current and future clients connect with their customers find new and unique ways to grow their business. Outside of the (now virtual!) office, Sara loves spending time running, reading and supporting her favorite teams (Go Braves & Gamecocks!).

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