As the sunny days of summer slowly give way, there is a whole new buzz of excitement filling up the supermarket aisles all around the country. It is that time again – back-to-school season. 

At Giraffe Insights we work with brands to understand these intricate patterns of consumer behaviour and decode the ever-evolving landscape of back-to-school shopping.  

Supermarkets turn into action-packed hubs during this period. You have rows and rows of products all neatly laid out – think fresh notebooks just waiting for ideas and backpacks decked out with dreams. But guess what? Underneath all this, there is a whole complex mix of behaviours and trends happening. 

The dance of tradition and innovation 

The back-to-school shopping experience is a blend of tradition and innovation. Timeless items like pencils, paper, and rulers maintain their appeal, symbolizing continuity amidst change. Yet, innovation has left its imprint. Once rare, technological gadgets and digital tools now join essentials, showcasing the fusion of education and technology.  

Looking at 2023, the National Retail Federation highlighted the priorities of parents as they embark on the back-to-school shopping journey. Leading the pack are clothing and accessories (95%), followed closely by shoes (94%) and electronics (69%). It is like practicality and tech had a cool collision, making getting ready for school a whole new game. 

Navigating choices in a digital age 

The digital age has not only redefined how we learn but also how we shop. Online shopping, once a novelty, has now become an essential channel for procuring school supplies. Virtual shopping carts brim with convenience, allowing parents and students to make purchases from the comfort of their homes. This shift has also ushered in a new dimension of decision-making, as online reviews and social media recommendations play a significant role in shaping choices. 

In light of the prevailing cost-of-living crisis, a considerable number of parents have embraced a shift towards more comprehensive online comparative shopping practices. This is driven by a strong determination to secure the best price for the products they need.  

The influence of trends and social media 

Lately, social media has become a major player in how people shop. A survey conducted in June 2023 indicated how the main motivations to use social media for back-to-school shopping include: to browse products, to read reviews and recommendations, to find about promotions and to receive coupons. This behaviour has disparities between generations, having Millennials use social media in back-to-school shopping primarily for browsing purposes, while Gen X uses it to find out about new promotions. 

The world of back-to-school shopping is akin to a dynamic landscape where trends sway like the wind. From the resurgence of vintage designs to the surge in eco-conscious choices, consumers’ preferences echo broader cultural currents. In particular, the year 2023 witnesses sustainability stepping into the spotlight as more than just a buzzword. Eco-friendly items such as reusable water bottles and environmentally conscious stationery are seamlessly integrating with the more traditional selections. Notably, these sustainable products have experienced a commendable 30% surge in sales, indicating a clear inclination among shoppers to opt for choices that resonate with environmental values. 

The tip of the iceberg  

The journey through the bustling aisles of back-to-school shopping reveals a fascinating interplay between tradition and innovation, which we have only begun to touch on here. Giraffe Insights’ further exploration of consumer behaviours in ‘Little Voices’ a study that regularly checks in with parents during this season and beyond underscores the intricate patterns that shape shopping decisions. 

As the digital age permeates every facet, online platforms redefine convenience and decision-making. Social media, a dynamic force, shapes the choices of different generations. And in the midst of trends and transitions, sustainability emerges as a resounding theme, reshaping the landscape of consumer preferences.