Before school begins in August, many parents will be shopping online for their kids’ supplies, and, to be ready for the rush, retailers will need to plan their inventory for this surge.
As the leader in global ecommerce acceleration, we’re constantly analyzing trends in online commerce to help brands understand consumer behavior to drive their own sales. So, to analyze retail back to school trends we asked:
When we look at total demand for all back-to-school items together, we find a clear seasonal pattern. Demand for school supplies tends to spike significantly in August of each year—right before school starts. This spike is followed by another annual bump up in demand in January before students return to school from winter vacations. Interestingly, the typical spike in demand for school supplies was muted in August of 2020 when many students were in virtual classrooms during the pandemic.
When we look at writing utensils, we see that markers and mechanical pencils had the highest demand over the past few years, followed by pencils and erasers.
The demand for notebooks, binders, and book covers follows the same pattern: a spike in demand in August followed by a smaller bump in demand in January. Overall demand is highest for spiral notebooks and composition notebooks, followed by D-ring binders and book covers.
Lunch bags and lunch boxes show a slightly different demand. They have much higher peaks in August and more muted bumps in January. Perhaps this is because lunch bags are more durable goods that may only need to be purchased once per school year, unlike writing utensils and notebooks that are consumable goods and need to be purchased more frequently. It is also notable that the August 2020 demand for kid’s lunch bags and lunch boxes was muted significantly in comparison with the demand for August 2019 and 2021. This was likely due to the fact that many students were attending class virtually from home and had no need to carry lunch elsewhere.
Due to differences in the variability of demand for back-to-school items throughout the year, some will present more supply chain problems for suppliers and retailers. The coefficient of variation (standard deviation divided by the mean) gives us a useful metric for comparing the volatility of demand for different products.
When we compare the annual coefficient of variation across back-to-school categories for the past three years, we see calculators and lunch bags have had the highest annual volatility in demand. This is likely due to the fact they may only need to be purchased once per school year. It may be a cause for concern that the volatility for calculators, lunch bags, and writing utensils increased in 2021. Increased volatility can strain the ability of the supply chain to match supply to demand. If this volatility continues into 2022, we may see higher costs get passed on from suppliers and retailers to back-to-school shoppers.
When we compare demand for Q2 of 2021 with Q2 of 2022, we find the highest YoY increase in demand for writing utensils, calculators, and lunch bags. Each of these had a YoY increase in demand of over 20%. Calculators and lunch bags/lunch boxes experienced enormous spikes in demand of over 150% at the time school started in August of 2021. Demand for book covers grew the least YoY at only 2%.
A comparison of the first half of 2021 with the first half of 2022 shows increases for each category of writing utensils: markers, mechanical pencils, pencils, and erasers.
Demand for notebooks in the first half of 2022 has increased for spiral notebooks, composition notebooks, D-ring binders, and book covers.
When we compare the demand for different brands of notebook, Five-Star notebooks consistently have the highest monthly demand for the past several years. These brands also display the seasonal spikes in August and January each year.
When we compare demand changes for notebook brands over the past year, we find demand for Five-Star notebooks and Oxford notebooks have increased. The Five-Star brand also experienced the largest percent demand increase in Q3 2021 when the school year was starting. Mead notebooks have declined in demand YoY. All three brands experienced the seasonal spikes in demand in the third and first quarters when students return to school.
Demand for back-to-school supplies on Amazon increases significantly in August followed by a smaller peak in demand before going back to school in January. Markers and spiral notebooks experienced the highest demand in the categories of writing utensils and notebooks, respectively. Demand for calculators, lunch bags, and writing utensils had the largest demand growth YOY but increased in volatility in 2021. If this continues into 2022, it may put a strain on supply chains as well as increase prices for shoppers. The subcategories of writing utensils and notebooks also increased in demand when comparing H1 2022 to H1 2021.
Most ecommerce categories see an uptick in interest and sales timed to back-to-school. For instance, not only do students need supplies but they need footwear, apparel, new linens and other soft goods. For brands connected to the back-to-school season, being aware of these demand patterns (timing, items, and brand equity) for student’s supplies is important for suppliers and retailers to plan inventory and promotions.
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If you’re in the global ecommerce space, you are most likely aware of Amazon, and probably selling your products on the marketplace. With over $470 billion in sales in 2021 alone, Amazon stands as the third largest company in the world based on revenue. The ecommerce giant is a household name in the U.S. and working hard to grow its market share across five continents worldwide.
Having your products available on Amazon and being competitive there, though, are definitely two different things. If you want to really succeed on Amazon, you’ll need specialized insight into how Amazon works and how to make it work for you. So, for many brands, it’s a great idea to work with an Amazon Search Engine Optimization (SEO) agency.
At Pattern, Amazon SEO optimization service is one of our key competencies. We understand that technology, data-driven insights and expertise are the most important tools brands can leverage to win top listing spots on digital marketplaces. With expert teams and years of experience, we help brands conquer the Profitability Death Spiral as they compete with other products and sellers online. We offer Amazon SEO agency services as a core solution to brands that need more resources to get ahead.
An Amazon SEO agency serves brands by improving their products’ rank and listing performance on Amazon. They make strategic decisions about ad spending and placement that lead to higher traffic, conversions, and revenue for ecommerce brands.
A great Amazon SEO Agency partner will:
Unfortunately, many Amazon SEO agencies profit in unfair ways from your brands’ perceived success based on the ROAS numbers they provide. This is done through including branded search terms in ROAS reports, which naturally skew listing performance.
Let’s say, for instance, your brand is called “Annie’s” and you sell lollipops. Your brand has a very high likelihood of winning the top listing spots on Amazon for lollipop search terms that are paired with “Annie’s,” your brand name. So, SEO agencies will spend your ad money on those terms and report a very high ROAS.
To avoid scenarios like these, it’s best to look for an agency that either calculates their profits on metrics other than your ROAS scores or weighs branded search terms differently in the performance metrics reports. Regardless of your Amazon SEO agency’s cost structure, you should align onbranded search terms before committing to a scope of work.
A great indicator of a high-quality Amazon SEO agency is the level of insight they can provide into your competitors’ listing positioning and how it compares to yours. Data fanaticism is so important at Pattern that we’ve developed proprietary technology to display this exact information with precise detail for every brand we work with. In fact, you can find our free version here to see how you compare to some of your top competitors based on ASIN.
It’s certainly possible to improve your Amazon search performance with blind spending strategies. But a truly great solution will help you to know where your dollars are at their most powerful and competitive.
Amazon’s A10 algorithm prioritizes customer satisfaction—it wants to show consumers the best products that align with their search intent to improve conversions and sales. So, the best way to gain momentum on Amazon is to work on incremental wins.
Improving your performance on more obscure search terms that align with your customers’ search intent is a great way to increase ROAS for the long term. A10 will reward your success with better rankings on higher-volume search terms and the virtuous cycle can help you conquer your most-coveted listing spots. And the best part? This process of gaining momentum, if done right, will naturally decrease your ad spend over time as Amazon recognizes your value and works with you to keep your products at the top of consumers’ search results.
As an Amazon SEO specialist, Pattern knows how to help your brand win better success for long-term profitability on Amazon. With our data-driven tools and brilliant teams of ecommerce experts, we help brands with listing management, content optimization, Amazon ad strategies, and more.
Contact us to learn more about our SEO optimization services.
Entering the ecommerce landscape is a huge undertaking for any brand—it usually requires a large investment in resources and expertise to really be successful. Any brand can quickly get in over their heads trying to navigate the nuances of SEO, fulfillment and logistics, distribution control, listing optimization, and meeting the numerous other requirements and administrative tasks to show up well on marketplaces.
Unfortunately, because it’s so easy for third party, gray market, and unauthorized sellers to obtain and sell products online, many brands find themselves pressured to execute an ecommerce plan without the right resources to succeed on marketplaces and their other channels.
So, for brands looking to enter the ecommerce space or improve their current and future performance, it makes sense to partner with an ecommerce consultant.
Pattern’s global presence and proven success with hundreds of brands has allowed us to develop highly effective ecommerce consulting services. We can guide your brand to navigate issues both large and small in marketplaces worldwide. To maximize your ecommerce efforts, you’ll need to understand what an ecommerce consultant does and how to select one who drives the right value for your brand and products.
An ecommerce consultant is a specialist in the ecommerce space who can give you personalized guidance on how to market your products and grow their presence on digital marketplaces.
An ecommerce consultant should be able to analyze your brand, audience, category, opportunity, and current roadblocks and help you understand how to utilize your resources (or what resources are missing) to be most effective in capturing your opportunities in the ecommerce space.
Not sure how to evaluate a consultant? Here are 4 key attributes to look for as you make your choice.
At Pattern, we prioritize brand obsession for a reason—we know that a brand-centered mindset makes a crucial difference in the outcomes and results our partners achieve. So in our experience, when you begin your search for an ecommerce consultant, it’s important to look for a partner who is specialized in ecommerce, invested in the product, and passionate about helping brands build and improve their strategies. Typically, this means finding someone that consults exclusively for ecommerce marketplaces, rather than choosing a consultant who offers many different services.
It’s also important to avoid choosing a consulting partner who can’t deliver the right experience for your brand. The best indication of whether your potential consultant can do that is to review their history, data, and results with other brands. Ask if they’ve helped others in your selling category, if they’ve solved specific issues your brand is facing, and why they feel you are a good fit. The key is to leave the conversation feeling confident that you understand your consultants’ capabilities and whether or not they match up with your needs.
It’s best to pick a consultant who knows how to guide a brand onto and through multiple marketplaces worldwide. You’ll want to take a look at your long-term strategy and think about the regions and platforms you’re currently on and where you might want to take your brand in the future. If your consultant is truly great at what they do, they’ll be able to help you perform well enough with your current product roadmap that it’ll be a no-brainer to expand your presence at the right time.
The most effective partnership with an ecommerce consultant will be able to give you both recommendations and point you to solutions for making those changes in your planning, processes, and execution. Your time and money is valuable, so you want to make sure that you’re spending it as efficiently as possible as you follow your consultant’s advice. So, before you commit to an ecommerce consultant, ask about the resources and concrete solutions they typically recommend to the brands they work with.
Finding an ecommerce consultant that checks the boxes can be a difficult task. At Pattern, our entire focus and drive centers around giving brands the tools and resources they need to succeed on domestic and international ecommerce marketplaces.
With over 100 global ecommerce consultants across 10 global offices, we have the right tools to partner with brands across the world to achieve better ecommerce success. We give specialized advice, then make sure our partners have all the adequate SEO, social media, CRM, Amazon multi-channel fulfillment services, and ecommerce outsourcing services they need.
Interested in ecommerce consulting services? Set up a call here to learn what Pattern can do for your brand on global marketplaces.