3 Surprising Back-to-School Shopping Trends in 2019

We analyzed back-to-school shopping trends & found that consumers are thinking about the season a lot sooner than most marketers think.
Updated on January 23, 2023

The second largest shopping event of the year, the back-to-school shopping season is in full swing. It’s that time of year for students, teachers, and parents to put away their beach gear, pick up their back-to-school shopping lists, and get shopping.

At Criteo, we analyzed the back-to-school shopping trends for 2019 and found that consumers are thinking about the season a lot sooner than most marketers might think. Here are three trends that we’ve seen so far in the back-to-school shopping season 2019:

1. Back-to-School Shopping Starts a Lot Sooner than You Think.

Source: Convince & Convert

School is back in session for some students as early as the end of July. That means shopping is taking place even earlier, sometimes right after the traditional June school year ends.

Students heading back to school as early as July isn’t the only thing impacting Back-to-School shopping. Amazon Prime Day awakens even the sleepiest of summer sales. And, as Criteo has found, Amazon Prime Day is a key opportunity for every brand and retailer. Consumers are ready to buy during July, whether on Amazon or elsewhere. Increases in sales are seen across a variety of key Back-to-School categories such as backpacks, books, and laptops.

2. August Back-to-School Sales = Accessorizing.

Back to School Shopping

Source: Indexed values are based on average transactions in June 2018. All retail, United States, Criteo data.

As the school season approaches, students are starting to refresh their wardrobes. Criteo data shows a significant spike in apparel and accessories. Handbags and shoes are top of mind for shoppers, with an expected increase in sales of nearly 200%

3. Labor Day is the Big School Shopping Weekend.

Back to School

Source: Criteo Sponsored Products network data, 07/01/18-09/30/18.

Labor Day marks the end of summer for most students. Shoppers are scrambling to get all their back-to-School necessities during the long weekend, which we see in Criteo data. Last year:

  • Apparel saw a +24% increase compared to the average in July.
  • Consumer electronics sales rose by +28% just prior to Labor Day.
  • Furniture saw sales spike on Labor Day, at +33%, specifically for desks, lamps, and bedding.

4. The Summer Sales Evolution

Source: Criteo Sponsored Products network data, 07/01/18-09/30/18.

As we dove into Criteo Sponsored Products data, we looked at the most popular search terms across retailer websites in July, August, and September. It’s a revealing look at how purchases change over the season:

  • During the month of July, summer products such as Pools and Air Conditioners are a high on the list, but disappear from the Top 10 as the temperature begins to cool down.
  • July and August show a consistent upward trend for Backpacks. Once students have transitioned from Summer to Fall, Backpacks are no long a Top 10 search item.
  • Desks, Laptops, and TVs are the top items throughout the three months.

By understanding how the season itself will change consumer priorities, marketers can build better, more targeted campaigns for each sales peak.

Getting an A+ On Your Back-to-School Strategy

By better understanding how parents and students shop, marketers can better plan their campaigns across the summer.

Our findings show that it’s important to adjust your advertising budget earlier in the summer than you might think – especially if you want to catch back-to-school shoppers who are already thinking about school supplies when July rolls around. With a dynamic retargeting tool, that means bidding aggressively and running uncapped campaigns, which will guarantee that your ads get placed. The more competitive your ad spend, the better chance that your products will get shown in front of the best possible customers.

To build a full funnel advertising experience, tools like Criteo Audience Match allow you to upload your customer list and target them across digital channels, showing ads to people who are already familiar with your brand. Criteo Customer Acqusition, on the other hand, can target and convert new customers by showing ads to audiences who have never interacted with your brand, but have similar browsing and buying behaviors as your high-value customers.

Want to get started with Criteo? Register to try out the Criteo Ad Platform today

Subscribe to our newsletter

Fresh sales trends and consumer insights to help you plan and win.