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Holiday Trends: Early Start to Back-to-School Shopping

holiday trends 2024

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As the summer winds down, retailers are already gearing up for one of the most significant shopping periods of the year: back-to-school. This season marks the unofficial start of the holiday shopping frenzy, setting the tone for the months ahead. For ecommerce merchants, understanding the trends and consumer behaviors driving back-to-school shopping can provide valuable insights into the broader holiday season.

Early start to the shopping season

One of the most noticeable trends in recent years is the earlier start to back-to-school shopping. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), parents and students are beginning their shopping much earlier than in previous years. 

This shift is driven by a combination of factors, including the desire to avoid last-minute rushes, take advantage of early sales, and ensure product availability amid supply chain uncertainties. As an ecommerce merchant, capitalizing on this trend means starting your back-to-school promotions early to capture this proactive segment of shoppers.

Growth in back-to-school sales

The forecast for back-to-school sales this year is promising. Retail Dive reports that parents are expected to spend nearly 22% more on back-to-school shopping compared to last year. This increase is attributed to several factors, including higher prices due to inflation, a greater emphasis on technology and digital learning tools, and a more significant focus on personalizing the educational experience. 

For ecommerce merchants, this growth translates to an opportunity to boost sales by offering a diverse range of products that cater to the evolving needs of students and parents. From laptops and tablets to ergonomic furniture and customizable school supplies, meeting these demands can drive significant revenue.

Implications for the holiday season

The robust growth in back-to-school sales is a positive indicator for the overall holiday season. An early and strong start often sets the stage for continued consumer spending throughout the latter part of the year. eMarketer predicts that this year's back-to-school season will serve as a bellwether for holiday shopping, with trends such as early purchasing, increased spending, and a focus on digital shopping experiences likely to carry over.

For ecommerce merchants, the key takeaway is to maintain momentum by extending successful back-to-school strategies into your holiday planning. This includes leveraging data-driven insights to understand customer preferences, optimizing your inventory to meet anticipated demand, and ensuring a seamless and engaging online shopping experience.

Actionable insights for ecommerce retailers

  • Start early: Launch your back-to-school campaigns earlier to capture the proactive shoppers. Highlight deals and promotions to entice early birds.

  • Diversify product offerings: Expand your inventory to include products that cater to the current trends, such as technology and personalized items.

  • Optimize digital experience: Ensure your ecommerce platform is optimized for a smooth user experience. Consider features like personalized recommendations, easy navigation, and mobile-friendly design.

  • Leverage data: Use customer data from the back-to-school season to inform your holiday strategies. Understand what products are in demand, what marketing messages resonate, and what channels drive the most traffic and conversions.

The final word

As we move into the back-to-school season, it's clear that consumer behaviors and expectations are evolving. By staying ahead of these trends and adapting your strategies accordingly, you can position your ecommerce business for success not just for back-to-school but throughout the entire holiday season.

Shelley Kilpatrick avatar

Shelley Kilpatrick is an accomplished content marketer who creates compelling, original content designed to educate and empower ecommerce businesses. She is currently Manager of Content Marketing at BigCommerce where she leads a world-class team of content writers and strategists. Outside of work, she loves exploring all things Texas BBQ and craft beer with her husband and two dogs.