After the Fourth of July, we start to think about… back-to-school? As with most seasonal events in the ecommerce world, the back-to-school shopping season has moved earlier and earlier each year. National Retail Federation research shows that 22.5% of adult U.S. internet users shopping for kids ages 6 to 17 started two or more months before school started. Forty five percent begin between three weeks and a month ahead. For those older than 17 (the college crowd), school shopping starts even earlier.

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Source: http://www.emarketer.com/article.aspx?R=1012653&RewroteTitle=1

Not only are shoppers starting earlier, they are spending more. In a recent poll by the NRF, 29% of households with school-age kids (6-17), plan to spend more than last year for back to school. For college students and their families, 30% plan to spend more this summer. Both of these are increases over 2014 when the same question was asked.

When asked where they will spend their increased dollars, families said school supplies & electronics with electronics making up $8.42B in spend in 2014. Retailers should also expect not only online shopping to dominate, but comparison shopping. Thirty one percent of school shoppers said they would compare prices online.

What does this mean for retailers? Thinking about back-to-school now is key to capturing the consumer in time to shop. Highlighting uniforms, teacher/student discounts, and supply/wish lists are all great ways to drive interest early on, and all should be promoted in social media & email strategy. Putting up key back-to-school pages on site with targeted content can also help bolster your search engine optimization rankings. Also, an increased focus on consumer shopping engines and being competitive in pricing is key. Finally, an ongoing emphasis on mobile & smartphone shopping is prevalent, as 57% of families & students will use their smartphone for back-to-college shopping & research. So, grab your notebooks, sharpen your pencils, and zip up your backpacks, it is time to rock out this school year! …or at least start to think about it…