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09/03/2021

Survey: Back-to-school shoppers are open to messaging

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
Dan Berthiaume profile picture
Back-to-school shoppers are ready to hear from retailers.

Retailers should include notifications, especially via email, in their back-to-school promotional strategies.

According to a recent survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults by cloud communications platform Plivo, nearly nine in 10 respondents (87%) are open to receiving communications from retailers they shop or want to shop with, with the percentage even higher (94%) among respondents who planned to do back-to-school shopping.

Of respondents planning to shop for back-to-school items, 70% preferred email notifications, 53% preferred SMS/text messaging, and 32% preferred direct mail. However, only 27% of back-to-school shoppers were open to in-app messaging, while 26% were open to receiving phone calls.

Back-to-school shoppers over the age of 65 had the same preference for email (70%) as overall respondents, but were much more likely to prefer direct mail (65%). Preference among back-to-school shoppers in this age cohort for SMS (19%) and phone call (7%) communications were lower than among the overall respondent base. By contrast, younger respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 most preferred email (65%) and SMS (56%), and least prefer direct mail (24%).

The survey also found back-to-school shoppers are fairly open to opting in to many types of SMS notifications. These include:

  • Shipping/delivery notices and updates (58%).
  • Coupons (57%).
  • Sale promotions (51%).
  • Notification that product is back in stock (42%).
  • Curbside pickup (37%).
  • New product notifications (34%).

For the most part, the likelihood of respondents opting in to retailers’ text notifications increases with their income and education level. Almost nine in 10 (88%) respondents with an income of under $50,000 said they would opt in, while 95% of those with an income over $100,000 would opt in. Meanwhile, 85% of those with a high school education or less would opt in, while of those with a college degree or more, 94% would opt in.

According to Plivo analysis, survey results reveal back-to-school shoppers are most interested in deals and updates on existing orders. Plivo says that these respondents likely have specific supply lists or items in mind this time of year, so they’re looking for communications that help them find what they need, at a good price, delivered when they want it.

Recent National Retail Federation (NRF) data on back-to-school spending suggests a solid ROI potential for retailers’investments in messaging. The NRF expects consumers to spend record amounts for both school and college supplies as students prepare to return to in-person classrooms.

According to annual survey data released by the NRF and Prosper Insights & Analytics, respondents with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $848.90 on school items, which is $59 more than 2020. Total K-12 back-to-school spending is expected to reach a record $37.1 billion, up from $33.9 billion in 2020 and an all-time high in the survey's history. 

Meanwhile, college students and their families plan to spend an average of $1,200.32 on college or university items, an increase of $141 from 2020. Over half ($80) of the projected increase in college spending is due to increased spending on electronics and dorm furnishings. Total back-to-college spending is expected to reach a record $71 billion, up from $67.7 billion in 2020.