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E-commerce, Social Media Will Influence BTS 2016

For back-to-school 2016, the traditional supply industry will experience major changes.

According to The NPD Group, many factors are shaking up the traditional supply industry, including e-commerce, social media and season.

“To the average consumer, back-to-school shopping may seem like a fairly consistent and predictable routine, but for retailers and manufacturers it is an extremely dynamic environment,” said NPD’s office supply industry analyst director, Leen Nsouli.

Although most consumers prefer to shop in store versus online for BTS, many more are purchasing supplies on digital platforms. From July to September 2015, e-commerce gained $90 million in dollar share growth, which was more than brick-and-mortar, according to NPD.

“Consumers are spending more online and it is occurring later in the season, with a seasonal arc forming from the first week of August and lasting through mid-September,” Nsouli said. “Back-to-school online share will continue to grow, making it even more essential for retailers and manufacturers to optimize their omni-channel strategies.”

Social media inspiration will also dynamically impact the traditional supply sector during BTS this year, NPD said. A recent Crowdtap survey also supported this prediction and found that 27 percent of respondents planned to use Pinterest boards for their BTS shopping lists. Last year, NPD found that 20 percent of teachers used Facebook and more than one-third of teachers used Pinterest for BTS list inspiration.

“Social media engagement has added yet another dimension to every industry and season, and back-to-school is no exception. A perpetual stream of trends on platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram means that teachers and other consumers alike are being influenced in new and different ways,“ Nsouli noted. “This has also helped to put the fashion back in function when it comes to supplies; consumers are willing to spend more on aesthetically pleasing, or fashionable, products.”

Season will affect BTS 2016, too. Shifts in school start dates and tax-free holidays influence consumers’ decisions about BTS shopping. According to NPD, areas including New York and Seattle generally have the latest BTS start dates, while Atlanta and Phoenix have the earliest BTS start dates.

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Nsouli explained that Labor Day plays a huge part in when BTS seasons begin, therefore influencing the profitability of the traditional supply industry.

“Each year back-to-school spending occurs later, and a late Labor Day holiday in 2015 pushed out the spending even later than prior years. I anticipate this will also be the case this year,” Nsouli said.