Back-to-school is the second biggest shopping season of the year, when parents and students take stock of what they need to get through the year successfully, including technology. Here’s a quick look at three trends shaping this year’s back-to-school purchases: easier shopping, the increasing popularity of wearables and use of the Internet of Things to facilitate smoother transitions to college life.
Back-to-school shoppers continue to shift to mobile. According to a recent study, 78% of parents will use a smartphone – both in-store and out-of-store – for back-to-school shopping in 2015. The most popular activity among parents (63%) is using their device to compare prices, and 62% will use it to search for deals and coupons. Among college shoppers, 41 percent said they would use a smartphone to shop for back-to-school items, and 46 percent said they would use a tablet, according to a survey by the National Retail Foundation -- statistics that underscore the increasing need for retailers to offer mobile-optimized websites.
Major retailers like Target are also making back-to-school in-store purchases even easier, with technologies that help retailers integrate store-specific shopping lists and interactive maps into their branded mobile applications. The maps show store layouts and help shoppers plan the most efficient path to locate all the items on their lists.
This year, wearables are primed for back to school, and the two biggest hits so far are the Fitbit and Apple Watch. The Fitbit sold 11 million devices last year, and analysts say Apple has so far sold just over 2 million Apple Watches since the April debut. Other popular smartwatches include the LG Watch Urbane, a do-it-all smartwatch, and the Kickstarter-led wearable, the Pebble Time. As the next step beyond smartphones, tech experts expect more students of all ages to be popping into classes with wearable products like activity trackers and smartwatches.
Internet of Things (IoT)
At the college level, the IoT is helping students make the transition to adulthood more smoothly with several apps that help them do everything from washing their clothes to getting to class on time, organizing class schedules, and keeping track of their money. At Wake Forest University, for example, an app called Laundry View ties into connected washers and dryers to let students know which machines are available for use. Once laundry is in progress, students can use the same app to see how long it takes for their sheets to dry. Another app, Ride the Wake, displays the location of the university’s shuttle buses to help students plan their rides to class.