This week many children in the U.S. will return to school. They'll don new shoes and clothes, and come equipped with a fresh stock of school supplies. But many lucky parents avoided standing in long lines and arguing with their kids this back-to-school season. Rather than enter physical stores to buy their children's new back-to-school items, many parents for the first time bought their back-to-school items from the comfort of their sofas.
As multiple reports point to a lackluster back-to-school shopping season, others are showing substantial gains in online sales. According to IBM's "Digital Analytics Benchmark," sales via mobile from July through the third week of August saw double-digit growth, with July seeing a 40 percent increase in mobile shopping alone.
NRF's 2013 Back-to-School Spending Survey, report that 80.5 percent of respondents said economic conditions will change their spending in some way; 37 percent of parents said they will comparison shop first online, up from 32 percent of reported comparison shoppers last year, and 18.5 percent said they will shop online more often.
Finally, a survey from SOASTA underscores this trend to shop for back-to-school via mobile, with 33 percent reporting they plan to shop via their smartphones and tablets. In fact, 74 percent of parents said shopping with apps on their mobile phones or tablets is less stressful than going to a physical store. Some reasons included:
- Don't have to wait in line (50 percent)
- Don't have to deal with obnoxious shoppers (34 percent)
- Don't have to leave my sofa (21 percent)
- Don't have to have an argument with the kids about budget (15 percent)
This data shows how practicality and pragmatism are weighing heavily on this year's back-to-school shopping as the economy and convenience are dictating how and where parents are spending their dollars. It also demonstrates something else: the need and value for retailers to optimize their mobile sites and to create shopping apps that provide value.
When building these apps, retailers must pay careful consideration to the varying preferences of both tablet and mobile users. According to the "2013 Adobe Mobile Shopping Forecast: Apps & Buying Habits," perceptions and attitudes of mobile apps differ between tablet and smartphone users. For example, while both tablet and smartphone users value function and overall app experience as highly valued app characteristics, tablet shoppers want interactive images and slideshows while smartphone shoppers prefer having the ability to locate physical stores with their apps and the capability to leverage geo-based offers.
This data highlights the need for retailers to take these distinctions into consideration when building and enhancing their mobile sites for back-to-school shopping, as well as throughout the holiday season. The distinct roles retail apps and catalogs play for different devices should also drive retailers' mobile site and app development in the coming months.