NPD: Back-To-School Shoppers Weigh Practical Preferences

Practical considerations about price, convenience and product quality are paramount when consumers consider where and how to do their back-to-school shopping, whether in-store or online, according to the new back-to-school report from The NPD Group.

Consumers made more than 70% of their back-to-school purchases in-store in 2016. The most important benefits of in-store back-to-school shopping identified by consumers include such practical considerations as the ability to get other shopping done and the availability of a wide brand/product selection. The go-to retailers for back-to-school purchases were mass merchants including Target and Walmart, NPD stated.

Best/lowest prices, sales/discounts/promotions and wide product selection are generally the foremost considerations when consumers decide where to back-to-school shop, NPD noted. However, the company added that one-stop shopping and trusted brand availability enter into the top three.

Despite the electronic resources available, NPD maintained, store displays and word-of-mouth are critical to how consumers determine where to go or what to buy when they shop for most back-to-school categories.

The practical aspect of back-to-school shoppers also emerges in the case of purchase decision drivers, NPD indicated. Almost 60% of consumers surveyed said that they only buy back-to-school items on sale/discount, although quality/durability and functionality rounded out the top three factors.

“Back-to-school shopping is about satisfying a list of needs, and the retailer or product that delivers value and ease in doing so will ring the sale,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group. “Brick-and-mortar retail has been challenged this past year and overall online growth, while still strong, has begun to show signs of slowing. How well marketers reengage consumers and meet their needs will determine who prevails as the back-to-school leader.”