Back to School: Are Families Ready?

After a summer filled with ready-to-drink beverages and outdoor getaways, the time has come for students and parents to buckle down and start preparing for the school year ahead. 

The 2021-2022 school year will not be completely “back to normal”. The more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19 — a topic that grew 320% throughout the month of June according to ShareThis data — is making up at least 83% of new cases and is causing concern amongst families, schools, and legislatures. With children under the age of 12 potentially not eligible for the vaccine till mid-winter, some states are buffing up their health protocols and mandating strict masking policies in the classroom, while others are moving in the opposite direction and prohibiting districts from requiring masks.

As case numbers fluctuate and safety recommendations shift, how are families preparing for Back to School?

Temperature Check

On one hand, households are eager to get their kids back to in-person schooling. At the beginning of June, this year’s Back to School online engagement was already showing 4% greater interest than the 2020 season. In addition, curbside pick up is down 65% compared to last year, indicating consumers are excited to be in stores picking out notebooks and pens in-person. 

Percent Share of Online Engagement by Yearly Back to School Audiences:

On the other hand, some households are still hesitant about fully leaning into the idea of in-person instruction. Online Back to School engagement is still below the pre-pandemic 2019 season by 13% and ShareThis’ Back to School Audience, compared to the general ShareThis audience, are having mixed feelings toward in-person schooling. Uncertainty is likely fueling both of these data points. ‘School spirit’ may be down due to confusion around health policies and procedures, hesitancy to take action when there is no clear road map, and worry for the safety of a vulnerable population during a persistent pandemic.

2021 Sentiment for In-Person vs Online Schooling:

On top of all of these concerns, families are dwelling on the financial means needed to keep their kids in school. After focusing on homeschooling and e-books in 2020, the Back to School audience has now shifted their focus to scholarships, financial aid, and study grants. This is exposing the lasting effects of the pandemic on the financial stability of many eager to get a well rounded education, especially with the job market and economy in constant flux. 

High Indexing Categories for Back to School Audiences:

Battle of the Brands

With a new school year comes the need for new supplies. And with the need for new supplies comes the battle of the brands. Brands are already out in the school yard sizing each other up, coercing consumers to join their team, and pulling out all the stops to make sure they win the match on most sales this season. 

Top 5 Brands of School Supplies by Percent Share of Engagement (%):

For general school supplies (pens, notebooks, binders, etc.), Amazon and Walmart are hitting it out of the park with 75% of the overall interest – likely due to unbeatable low prices, easy pick up and shipping options, and unlimited supplies with lots of variety.

Top 5 Brands of Clothing Apparel by Percent Share of Engagement (%):

For apparel, American Eagle, Zara, and Gap/Old Navy are all neck and neck for the most interest and might have to go into overtime to see who will win the market share. All of these brands appeal to a similar audience so it is hard to play confidently when supporters keep switching teams.

Top 5 Brands of Laptops by Percent Share of Engagement (%):

For laptops, it is no surprise that Apple is crushing the competition with over half the amount of interest compared to all other competitors combined. We figure it is due to the interconnected ecosystem of apple products. If you own an iPhone, it is easier to text your friends memes on your MacBook Air while “taking notes” during a lecture.

Top 5 Brands of Footwear by Percent Share of Engagement (%):

For footwear, it is a toss up between Nike and Adidas who make up 67% of interest combined. Obviously style and comfort are important for students walking to and from class and compared to the other competing brands, these two sport apparel companies meet those two fundamental needs.

Whether students are planning on returning in person or going online, they will still be purchasing similar supplies: pens, pencils, makers, crayons, notebooks, planners, binders, backpacks, laptops, calculators, and lunch boxes. However, if you are reusing your school shopping list from last year, we recommend making two slight adjustments: cross off the hand sanitizer (now that supplies are everywhere) and pencil in headphones to give your walk to class a good soundtrack.

Percent Share of Searches By Year (%):

Contact us if you’d like to use our data to build your Back to School shopping strategy this season.

About ShareThis

ShareThis has unlocked the power of global digital behavior by synthesizing social share, interest, and intent data since 2007. Powered by consumer behavior on over three million global domains, ShareThis observes real-time actions from real people on real digital destinations.

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