College Students Will Be Using Mobile Phones to Check Out Deals for Back-to-School Items

College students returning to school this fall are looking for bargains, and retailers that provide deals will do better than those who don’t, according to a recent survey by the accounting firm Deloitte LLP.

In the “2016 Back-to-College Survey,” parents are expecting to spend on average $1,345 for school supplies and goods compared to college students, who said they plan to spend an average of $1,082.

However, parents and students don’t quite see eye-to-eye on shopping-budget contributions. While 57 percent of students say they will contribute more than half of the back-to-school funds, only 16 percent of parents expect their students to do so.

College supplies, clothes and shoes remain the top-selling categories for both groups, but students predict they are more likely to spend on technology products.

Of those surveyed, only 44 percent of parents plan to spend on technology compared to 55 percent of students. Nearly two-thirds of parents and half of students are buying fewer traditional college supplies because of the increasing need for digital technologies in the classroom.

“College-aged students are taking on more financial responsibility and have a larger say in purchasing decisions during back-to-school shopping. Surprisingly, they’re even willing to contribute more to the budget than parents expect,” said Rod Sides, vice chairman and retail and distribution practice leader at Deloitte. “The survey also revealed that shoppers who plan to spend early in the season also expect to spend more money than those who wait until later. It’s vital for retailers to recognize that this customer base is segmented between students and parents and they will need to be strategic in their timing and offering of promotional information.”

Bookstores and college stores are the top destinations for most back-to-college shopping categories for both parents (63 percent) and students (71 percent), according to the survey.

However, students expect to purchase the majority of their college supplies and tech products online (64 percent), while stores are still No.1 across all categories that parents shop. Although more transactions are taking place in bricks-and-mortar stores, 82 percent of students and 74 percent of parents will conduct research online before purchasing products in-store, solidifying digital’s influence in the purchasing cycle.

The majority of college students (71 percent) plan to use their smartphones during the shopping journey, primarily to make well-informed purchasing decisions with a frugal mindset.

More than eight in 10 students plan to buy used books for the school year. Nearly the same amount, 79 percent, plan to purchase items from online retailers who offer free shipping during the back-to-college shopping season compared to 72 percent of parents.

“As expected, nearly half, or 45 percent, of the students surveyed plan to use social media to assist in shopping,” Sides said. “What’s interesting is that students are looking more for information rather than inspiration and brand interaction. They’re searching for the best deals, discounts and reviews. This means retailers need to make sure their messaging is conveniently available and considers the right product with the right price.”