July - the month of barbeques, swimming pools, and the height of summer fun - also signals the second largest retail event of the year, Back to School shopping. To understand how people are shopping this year, we surveyed back to school shoppers and took a look at search trends on Google and YouTube. 

Our research shows two trends: first, this is the earliest back to school shopping season on record, as the ability to research online at any time, anywhere, on any device, has sped up shopping noticeably. And second, based on Google Shopping data the odds are you’ll see a lot of One Direction lunchboxes at your local school this year.

Research in July, purchase in August
Our study found that not only are people already shopping, by the end of July most of their back to school research will already be complete. On Google, searches for “Back to School Sales” started trending two weeks earlier this year than in 2012. While just a small group of consumers have started to make purchases already, the momentum will pick up quickly toward the end of the month.

Just over a third of online shoppers will use their smartphones as an on-the-go tool to help make shopping easier. Of these, the 66% will use their smartphone to locate a retailer nearby, 64% will compare prices, and 43% will search for store item availability.

What are people shopping for Google?
More than 60% of shoppers will begin their shopping online, and most shoppers report that online research will have a notable impact on their in-store purchase decisions. Some of the top trending back to school searches on Google Shopping this month include:

College students drive biggest spending 
Our study found that while shoppers for high school students expect to spend $347 on average, people shopping for college expect to spend nearly double that amount at $614 on average. Some of the top trending searches for dorm decorations on Google Shopping this month include:

Shoppers looking for a bargain 
Back to school shoppers are price conscious and are looking for deals, with 94% of shoppers saying that a promotion or sale would persuade them to purchase a product. We found that people are more sale conscious when buying consumer electronics than other school supplies. Consumer electronics shoppers were more likely to make a purchase if there was a back to school promotion, free shipping offer, or one day sale. Brands like Dell are promoting deals of the day and in-store pickup in Google search ads to help shoppers with their back to school shopping.
Going online for inspiration 
Increasingly, consumers are searching online not just for price comparison but for inspiration. Back to school shoppers are using sites like YouTube to find authentic recommendations - 73% of shoppers who watch online videos for back to school shopping are looking for product reviews from “people like me.” These videos can be highly influential on sales - our apparel study found that 4 in 10 shoppers visited a store online or in-person as a direct result of watching an apparel video.
  • On YouTube, back to school shopping searches spike every August and have doubled from last year
  • Popular searches on YouTube during back to school shopping season include “room tour,” “school supplies,” “school makeup tutorial,” and “haul videos.” 
  • In the last week alone, more than 205,000 haul videos have been posted to YouTube from people sharing their latest purchases of clothing, supplies and dorm room decorations. 
  • Brands are also connecting with back to school shoppers on YouTube - Office Depot, Verizon Wireless and Kmart have already uploaded back to school videos on their YouTube channels to promote sales and school supplies. 

 Posted by Jacalyn Stolt, Sales Development Manager, Google