Consumers Turn to Social Media for Back-to-School Shopping

Back-to-School Supplies

September 20, 2012

It's nearing the end of September. Summer vacation is over, and students have either recently returned to school or are preparing for the start of the new school year, which means it is time for back-to-school shopping. This year, retailers experienced a new trend in the back-to-school season: a rise in social and mobile sales.

According to a recent press release, IBM reports indicate that social commerce sales, or sales that occur due to a referral from a social networking site, comprised 1.6 percent of July sales (a 25.1 percent increase from 2011) and 1.8 percent of August sales (a 69.7 increase from 2011). Mobile commerce, or sales from mobile devices, comprised 15.7 percent of sales in July and 15.4 percent in August.

As Forbes reveals, when it came to social commerce, Facebook thrived. In July, Facebook was responsible for 80 percent of all traffic from social networks to retailer sites, compared to 7.8 percent for Blogger and similar blogging sites and 8.7 percent from Twitter. In August, Facebook drove 78.1 percent of traffic from social networking to retailer sites.

Social referrals made the biggest impact in apparel, contributing to 1.4 percent of all sales in July and 2.2 percent in August - an increase of more than 113 percent over last year, according to the press release. The importance of social referrals in apparel is reflective of some experts' belief that students hold off on many back-to-school purchases until they see what their peers have bought.

Surprisingly, most of the items purchased were not directly school-related. MarketingDaily quotes Jill Puleri, Global Retail Leader of IBM, as she comments on this year's back-to-school consumer behavior: "Back-to-school season is proving to be a trigger event that spans across categories beyond just notebooks and backpacks." As the press release notes, home goods and department stores experienced the largest success in online sales during the current back-to-school season. Compared to last year's sales, home goods sales increased by 30 percent in July and by 25.5 in August. Mobile sales for home goods were also strong, reflected by a sales increase of 19.1 percent in July and 20.1 percent in August.

According to Forbes, social commerce is a trend that could also impact the holiday shopping season. What should retailers keep in mind from the recent back-to-school online shopping success? As Puleri explains in MarketingDaily, the successful retailers were companies that "...connected consumers with the right products, at the right price, and through the right medium - whether in a store, a mobile device or through popular social media channels."

Compiled by Aneesha Jhingan


"Consumers Defer Back to School Shopping in Favor of Purchases for the Home, IBM Reports,", September 18, 2012

"Facebook Commerce Quietly Rocked the Back to School Season", September 19, 2012, Erika Morphy

"Social, Mobile Soar In Back-to-School Finale,", September 19, 2012, Sarah Mahoney

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