UK Back to School Report: Primary…

UK Back to School Report: Primary School, Secondary School & Students Online Trends


INTRODUCTION

Back-To-School (BTS) is the third biggest retail peak after Black Friday and Christmas sales. According to Mintel, BTS spending increased +36% YoY to reach £1.16 billion in 2018. An average of £533 was spent per household on school or college supplies. So, which retailers and brands capitalised on BTS sales this year?

Firstly, let’s size up the online BTS audience:

12 million people fall within the Primary School, Secondary School and University Student segments.

The top 7 retailers reached 8 million of these visitors and converted 3 million into buyers in July and August. With Prime Day advancing BTS purchases, it’s no surprise that Amazon largely dominated the field. Amazon attracted 2X the number of BTS visitors and 9X the volume of BTS buyers, compared to others.

BTS Audiences –  Top Retailers

Source: Hitwise, UK. 8 weeks ending 31 August, 2019.

But other retailers are winning when it comes to specific segments. Next attracted more than +10% of Primary School Families and Student segments compared to last year. John Lewis also received +7% more Students to their site.

In this digital insights report, Hitwise takes a deeper look at the performance of Amazon, John Lewis and Next. We look at which categories and products drove these retailers’ growth and identify the top trending searches for each BTS segment.

BTS Segments – Top Retailer Visitors YoY

Source: Hitwise, UK. 8 weeks ending 31 August, 2019 YoY.

What’s Inside

PART ONE

Primary School Families: Trending Searches & Next Spotlight

PART TWO

Secondary School Families: Trending Searches & Amazon Spotlight

PART THREE

University Students: Trending Searches & Amazon vs. John Lewis Spotlight 


PART ONE

Primary School Families: Trending Searches & Next Spotlight

Nike dominated shoes, backpacks and sales searches

Each year, families with primary school children need to upsize their school uniforms. With little wiggle room in terms of style, the top multi-category retailers, such as M&S, Morrisons and Asda, were the go-to-spots for these items.

Parents do have greater freedom when it comes to their kids’ shoes and backpacks. Trending footwear searches, including “Skechers” and “Nike React”, rose +300% YoY. Brands, like Nike and Smiggle, and video games, like “Fortnite”, also jumped for backpack-related searches.

Compared to other BTS segments, Primary School families were also more sales-driven. Searches for sales and outlets, such as “Next sale” and “Adidas outlet”, grew +20% YoY.

Primary School Families
Trending Searches YoY

School Uniforms
“M&S School Uniform”
+69%
“Morrisons School Uniform”+29%
“Asda School Uniform”
+23%
Backpacks
“Nike Backpack”
+256%
“Smiggle Backpack”
+92%
“Fortnite Backpack”+45%
School Shoes
“Skechers UK”+388%
"Nike React”+342%
"Clarks Shoes”+64%
Sales-Driven Searches
“Adidas Outlet"+51%
“Nike Sale"+31%
“Next Sale"+28%

Source: Hitwise, UK. 8 weeks ending 31 August, 2019 YoY.

Next capitalised on greater demand for BTS basics and general accessories

Out of the top 7 retailers, Next saw the largest comparative jump of +11% YoY among Primary School families.

How were they able to do so?

Trending searches for this segment, like “Smiggle”, were among the fastest-rising searches within the retailer’s site.

BTS searches, such as “school socks” and “boys ties”, grew +100% YoY. Shoes and accessories, like “espadrilles” and “gym bags”, also leapt +100% YoY. This data suggests that demand and promotions across multiple categories, for both adults and children, were key to Next’s success over the BTS period.

Next
Internal Searches Volume & YoY

Source: Hitwise, UK. 8 weeks ending 31 August, 2019 YoY.

Next saw increased demand for BTS basics. Searches for shoes & accessories also spiked, drawing interests of both parent & child.

TOP TAKEAWAY

Whilst there is lesser movement among uniform searches, analysis into backpacks, accessories and shoes reveals the latest styles and influences for Primary School families.

Multi-category retailers, like Next, have been able to draw the interests of both parent and child. Through internal searches within retailers, understand what products are trending for these differing audiences.

PART TWO

Secondary School Families: Trending Searches & Amazon Spotlight

Secondary School families sought out the latest gadgets

Primary School kids impress with stylish kicks and backpacks. Secondary School children impress with the latest gadgets.

Searches for popular laptops, like the “Thinkpad” and “Chromebook”, and smaller tablets, such as the “iPad Mini”, rose +20% YoY for Secondary School families. The latest mobile phones, like the “iPhone XR”, and wireless headphones, such as “Beats” and “Airpods”, were also trending for this segment.

Secondary School families were on the lookout for the latest video games too. Searches for hotly anticipated games, like “Cyberpunk 2077”, and virtual reality headsets, like “Oculus Quest”, rose +100% YoY. 

Secondary School Families
Trending Searches YoY

Laptops
“Lenovo Thinkpad”+153%
“Chromebook”+57%
“iPad Mini”+24%

Mobiles
“iPhone XR”NEW
“Huawei P30 Pro”NEW
“Samsung S10”NEW
Headphones
“Airpods"+143%
“Beats headphones”+65%
“Wireless headphones”+27%

Gaming
“Oculus Quest”NEW
“Fifa 20”NEW
“Cyberpunk 2077”+133%

Source: Hitwise, UK. 8 weeks ending 31 August, 2019 YoY.

Headphones and Laptop purchases on Amazon rose by over +10% YoY

Amazon was in “prime” position to capitalise on this segment’s growing demand for electronics. In July & August, Amazon attracted 1.5 million buyers from Secondary School families, increasing by +10% YoY.

In the month of Prime Day, purchases of Headphones and Laptops rose +24% YoY and +11% YoY, driven by a mix of premium and budget brands. This included top-tier brands, like ASUS and HP for laptops and Sony and Sennheiser for Headphones, garnering the most page views. Budget brands, like IOTA, Betron, and Mpow, converted at over 2X the rate of these premium brands.

Amazon
Top Brands by Category

Laptops
Category

Top
Brand
Page
Views
Purchase
Rate
ASUS974K0.6%
HP550K0.4%
Lenovo390K0.5%
Acer383K0.3%
Dell318K0.8%
Huawei292K0.8%
Microsoft262K0.5%
Apple197K0.3%
IOTA153K2.1%
Razer148K0.5%

Headphones
Category

Top
Brand          
Page
Views
Purchase
Rate
Sony591K4.3%
HP550K0.4%
Lenovo390K0.5%
Acer383K0.3%
Dell318K0.8%
Huawei292K0.8%
Microsoft262K0.5%
Apple197K0.3%
IOTA 153K 2.1%
Razer148K0.5%

Amazon banked over 10% growth for key electronics. Demand was driven by top brands like ASOS and Sony. Highest-converting brands were cheap and cheerful like IOTA and Betron.

Source: Hitwise, UK. July 2019.

TOP TAKEAWAY

Secondary School families are raising digital natives. They’re looking for the latest electronics and gadgets across different categories, from mobile phones to gaming accessories.

Amazon is banking on this growth, as Prime Day advances electronic purchases to the middle of the year. Track category movements to understand which brands and products are drawing the greatest interest, and which ones are being bought over the BTS period.

PART THREE

University Students: Trending Searches & Amazon vs. John Lewis Spotlight 

Students are upgrading their furniture and appliances

Entering new halls and flatshares for the new school term, students are searching for furniture, appliances, clothing, and gadgets.

Searches for festival staples, such as “panama hats” and “wellies”, spiked over the summer months. Home basics and appliances, including “table lamps”, “air fryers” and “Shark vacuums”, rose +200% YoY. The latest smart devices, including “Fitbit Charge” and “Alexa” doubled YoY.

This segment is also looking for the most fashionable ways to get around campus. Searches for “skateboards” and “electric bikes” were up over +90% YoY.

Students – Trending Searches YoY

Clothing
"Panama Hat"NEW
“Wellies”+794%
“Nike Air Force”+205%
Furniture
“Air Fryer"+301%
“Shark Vacuum”+257%
“Table Lamps”+128%
Gadgets
“Fitbit Charge 3”+252%
“Amazon Alexa”+198%
“iPad Air”+102%

Personal Transport
“Skateboard”NEW
“Halfords bikes”NEW
“Electric Bike”+91%

Source: Hitwise, UK. 8 weeks ending 31 August, 2019 YoY.

Amazon expands in furniture; John Lewis gains in appliances. 

Students are a key audience for Prime Day sales, with Amazon seeing 7% more students visiting its site in July & August YoY. But John Lewis also saw a +8% gain among student visitors. John Lewis announced their own-brand house range enjoyed its biggest week to date thanks to their “Off to Uni” campaign.

Different product ranges drove these increases. Amazon, traditionally known for electronics, grew +10% for home furniture page views, such as tableware, bedroom and living room. John Lewis’ page views for headphones, speakers and smartwatches rose +20% YoY.

Amazon vs John Lewis
Top Rising Categories

Source: Hitwise, UK. July 2019 YoY.

Amazon banked over Amazon and John Lewis both saw increased demand in different categories. Amazon’s furniture page views rose 10% YoY. John Lewis rose 20% YoY for trending electronics.

TOP TAKEAWAY

Moving into new apartments and dorms, the retail needs of University Students are diverse. Fast-moving searches can quickly pinpoint what’s trending by category for this segment. 

Results from Amazon and John Lewis show that there are opportunities to expand into different categories. Align your product promotions and campaigns to these changes in category demand.

SUMMARY

Key Takeaways

With Prime Day sales increasing each year, Amazon’s dominance over the BTS period is clear. The e-tailer attracted 2.7 million buyers from Primary School, Secondary School and University Student segments, which was 9X greater than the next top retailers.

But others, like Next and John Lewis, are finding opportunities to grow by targeting specific BTS segments and expanding into relevant categories.

Using Hitwise data, our top recommendations are:

Fast-moving searches as your staple

Be the first to know what’s trending online. Define your target audience and pinpoint their latest retail searches on a regular basis.

Understand where these searches lead to

Use search to track consumer interest. Connect these insights with browsing metrics, such as page views within retailer sites, to understand product consideration.

Differentiate aspiration from actual purchase

Have a clear understanding of how brands are converting. The top-viewed brands aren’t necessarily gaining the most purchases and highest conversions. Identify which brands are being purchased over BTS period, vs. ones that consumers are likely to wait for when it comes to Black Friday sales.

Methodology: This analysis was derived using Kantar Media TGI variables to pinpoint the online behaviours of BTS audience segments. These variables were:

– Primary School Families: Includes households with children aged 5-9 yo.
– Secondary School Families: Includes households with children aged 10-15 yo.
– University Students: Includes full-time university students, aged 18-24 yo. 

Want more insights on the back-to-school season?

Hitwise will help uncover digital insights into your strategic audience segments.