Back to School Shopping: What Retailers Need to Know About Busy Parents

As the Back to School shopping season kicks off it’s important for retailers to understand who their customers are and how they shop in order to create a positive shopping experience.  Retailers need to understand that not all shoppers are alike and cater the customer experience toward specific shopping segments.  “Busy Parents*”, parents with children under the age of 18 who agree “I am so busy, I often can’t finish everything I need to in a day”, make up 25% of shoppers** and will be out in full-force this summer to purchase new supplies and clothing for the upcoming school year.  Crafting an ideal customer experience for this group can be beneficial for a retailers as 84% agree that when they find a brand they like, they stick to it.

Busy Parents shop in various ways. During the past 30 days, 35% shopped in-store only, 19% shopped online only and 47% shopped both in-store and online.  Because 59% of Busy Parents say they don’t make shopping decisions based on advertising, knowing their attitudes towards shopping can help a retailer create impactful messaging.  Compared to the average shopper, Busy Parents are more likely to let their children have a say in what they purchase, share their opinions with others and use the internet for both purchasing and connecting with brands.


Busy Parents are 31% more likely to agree “My children have a significant impact on the brands I choose.”

The majority of Busy Parent households have more than one child present.  Fifty-nine percent have two or more children while 23% have three or more children.  Seventeen percent of Busy Parent households have children under the age of 2, 34% between the ages of 2-5, 47% between the ages of 6-11 and 44% between the ages of 12-17.  This can make the shopping experience particularly hectic if Busy Parents are bringing children along during shopping trips.  A retailer can make this experience less hectic by setting up easy to access displays with basic necessities, whether that be school supplies or everyday school apparel for children.

Busy Parents are 21% more likely to agree “I like to share my opinions about products and services by posting reviews and ratings online.”

Busy Parents are influential.  In addition to sharing their opinions by posting online, they are 13% more likely to say that people often come to them for advice before making a purchase.  If a retailer can provide an exceptional customer experience they can add new customers via word-of-mouth.  For Busy Parents the customer experience starts with a store’s employees.  Eighty-four percent agree “it’s important to me that salespeople be knowledgeable about the products they sell” and 73% agree “the service of the personnel at a store is an important part of their decision to shop there.”

Busy Parents are 18% more likely to agree “I like to connect with brands through social networking sites.

In addition to posting reviews and ratings online, Busy Parents like to connect with brands through social networking sites. Two in five Busy Parents spend at least an hour a day on social networking sites and they are more likely than the average shopper to be accessing social sites on their smartphones (31% more likely) or tablets (17% more likely).  These avid social networkers are using various sites and apps so it’s important for a retailer to have a strategy for each.  Busy Parents are 24% more likely to use Instagram and 17% more likely to use Twitter.  To capitalize on these social networkers, retailers could set up an Instagram account where they post pictures of new items for the season or a Twitter account where they can tweet out extended hours or current sales or promotions.

Busy Parents are 16% more likely to agree “I often save money by purchasing previously used items online.”

Internet-only sites as well as consignment stores can benefit from understanding this shopping segment as well.  Twenty-nine percent of Busy Parents have spent over $1,000 during the past year on internet purchases and they are 22% more likely to have visited CraigsList and 20% more likely to have visited eBay during the past month.  With 75% of Busy Parents using Facebook, they may also be interested in the garage sale or second hand sale type pages posted on the network.

Busy Parents are 16% more likely to agree “I only purchase products online when I have a coupon or promotional code for the site.”

Busy Parents are drawn to purchase online when they have a coupon or promotional code.  They are most likely to receive coupons through mobile or online sources as they are 51% more likely to obtain coupons from text messages, 36% more likely from internet sites/apps, 36% more likely from QR code and 23% more likely from email.  It’s important to also think outside of the box when it comes to promotions.  Sixty-five percent of Busy Parents agree “I’d rather receive a sample of a product than a coupon”.  So instead of offering a sale, a gift with purchase may be just as effective in attracting a Busy Parent to shop.

According to the National Retail Federation, back to school shopping is projected to reach $75.8 billion in 2016.  If a retailer can attract the brand loyal Busy Parent during the Back to School shopping period they have the potential to create a valuable shopper for the future.  Retailers should take advantage of the Back to School shopping period to learn about the shopping patterns and behaviors of Busy Parent and use those insights to design experiences that will encourage them to keep coming back for more.



Click here to download the latest infographic by Nielsen Scarborough that highlights lifestyle and shopping habits of busy parents.




Source: Nielsen Scarborough USA+ 2015 Release 2 GfK/MRI Attitudinal Insights

Busy Parents – Parent of a child under the age of 18 who agrees “I am so busy, I often can’t finish everything I need to in a day”

Base: Shopper – Adults 18+ who have shopped a shopping mall/center in the past 30 days or via the Internet/apps in the past 30 days




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