As almost half of Pandora's listeners have students in their homes or are students themselves, the music streaming service conducted a back-to-school (BTS) survey to see what students were spending their money on in 2017.
By the first week of July, 42% of BTS shoppers had researched or purchased some BTS items. Specifically, 29% had conducted research and 21% had made at least one purchase.
Where in the U.S. are students making the biggest dent in retail? The Southeast and Midwest are leading the share in early BTS shopping, with 44% and 43% of those demographics having started BTS shopping.
Digital shopping is an important part of the process in 2017. One in five students have already made an online BTS purchase. Digital purchases are slightly above in-store purchases by both students and parents. And of those purchasing online, 12% of students and 12% of parents are shopping via desktop or laptop, and 9% of students and 7% of parents are purchasing via smartphone. In addition, 6% of students have shopped on a tablet, as have 4% of parents.
It seems that 68% of shoppers like to plan ahead, so are starting early. More than half, 61%, are taking advantage of sales or deals, and 63% say shopping early lets them spread out the cost. Another 39% are hoping to avoid crowds, while 35% worry that items will go out of stock. And the most popular items being sold are school supplies, 21%, followed by clothing, 18%.
Keri Degroote, VP of research and analytics, said that the sheer amount of people who were already researching and making purchases before the first week of July took the Pandora team by surprise. And it was clear from the two polls that consumers were looking to get the best deals, including July 4 sales, and they wanted to spread out costs of BTS purchases. In addition, consumers just wanted to feel prepared.
"It was also interesting to see that the shift towards online shopping that we’ve seen across industries in the last several years was not as pervasive when it came to back-to-school," Degroote said. "While most listeners take to digital methods for researching their back-to-school purchases, when it comes to actually buying the items, it was pretty even between online and in-store purchases."
The data in Pandora’s back-to-school listener survey shows that it’s never too early for brands to start planning their BTS strategy.
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"Creating a back-to-school media plan that starts early and continues with a steady cadence is the best shot marketers have of capturing the audiences that matter to their bottom line," she said.
Degroote continued: "The best thing that a retailer can do to capture early shoppers is to have their media strategy and plan in place ready to hit the ground running almost as soon as school ends. Maintaining a steady cadence of engagement-based advertising touchpoints is key for staying top of mind among consumers, no matter when they decide to start their back-to-school shopping."
The results also reflect that in-store shopping is not dead for the majority of back-to-school shoppers. While the mobility of smartphones has made it convenient for consumers to both research and make purchases for back-to-school items, many consumers still choose to shop for school-related supplies and products in-store.
Therefore, it is important for retailers to focus on driving both in-store and online traffic during the entire BTS shopping season. Advertising methods that reach people in both places will lead to greater success.