The end to putting pen to paper: students surf online for savings

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We’ve got that back-to-school feeling: students stock up on Freshers' Week staples with +255% more home and living student publishers on the Awin platform YoY. 

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Key takeaways 

  • Furniture and soft furnishings have seen a spike of +255% among student-focused publishers YoY.  
  • The fashion sub-vertical increased by +13% YoY. 
  • Insurance brands saw a +22.5% increase YoY in July and a further +12% increase in August. 

This year, the lead up to September produced interesting shopping statistics as people prepped ahead and rushed to stock up on stationery and school uniforms in July and August. For those heading to university, the spend was even greater with furniture, electronics and insurance all to consider. 

Bulk-buying is on the rise 

Research by JungleScout states that despite the impending cost of living crisis, parents are spending on average +2% more on back-to-school supplies this year versus last year. Around 38% of consumers are saying that their household income is unstable, with 52% stating they will only buy products that are on sale. It will come as no surprise then that the most popular shopped-for items in this year’s back-to-school hauls have been bought in bulk.  

Both Crayola’s Classic Colour Pack Crayons, bought in packs of 4, and Mead Spiral Notebooks, sold in packs of 18, have been flying off the shelves in the back-to-school shop. Interestingly, revenue for lunchboxes has dropped by -36% and sales for pencil cases have declined by -12%. Picking up the slack, backpacks sales have risen by +6% YoY, and notebooks are on the up by +24%. 

Data tracked on the Awin platform shows that the most popular sub-verticals for student affiliates in July and August for back-to-school shopping were fashion, education, furniture, electronics and insurance. Compared with July and August last year, this year saw +13% increase in the fashion sub-vertical, although this is a drop from last year’s increase of +17%. 

Fashion sales bar chart showing YoY growth

It pays to get insured 

Insurance, particularly for policies such as Bettersafe who offer gadget specific cover, have performed exceptionally well, with savvy students seeking insurance deals to protect their belongings increasing YoY by +22.5% in July and +12% in August. Furniture also saw +13% increase in August, as university students looked to deck out their digs and shared housing ahead of the new term, moving to a fully in-person teaching curriculum, and Education increased by +76% YoY in July and a further +94% in August. Electronics have actually seen a -20% dip, which is unsurprising with the looming impact of inflation not far off. People are generally not as quick to upgrade and seek to save money by holding onto items such as phones, tablets and laptops for longer. 

Insurance bar chart showing YoY sales growth

Fresh deals for Fresher’s Week 

A publisher on the Awin platform, leading the way in student shopping, is Student Beans. Offering a plethora of discounts to anyone with a valid student ID, it is the go-to website for savvy university students looking to save money. Their performance this year has been extremely impressive: +20% uplift in July, followed by  +7% increase in August. Unsurprisingly, their best performing advertiser relationships fall firmly with the most popular back-to-school sub verticals, driving impressive performance with the likes of PrettyLittleThing, Papier and Samsung. 

We spoke to Ash Waters, Head of Advertising at Student Beans, regarding the trends across back-to-school shopping: “We're quite dominant in a few sectors, mostly fashion and tech”, Ash explains. “We tend to see significant spikes, particularly in the tech sector, in the run up to Freshers' Week. That's prime time to buy your tech before the start of the year. It’s the same with fashion as well, and beauty as a subset of that tends to be quite dominant, particularly in the summer.” 

Student Beans are more than aware of the potential of the impact that the cost-of-living crisis will have upon their customer base’s shopping habits and are already feeling the effects of it due to the lasting impact of the pandemic. “People's buying behaviours have transitioned quite significantly”, says Ash, “I would say that online for most categories is now the default, but we have seen a slow resurgence in instore shopping because it's an experience and it's a different dynamic. So I think what we are seeing now is more of a hybrid.” 

As the purse strings tighten for many, online shopping may well become the norm for many back to school essentials, as the internet allows for consumers to shop around for the best deal with ease. It’s in this that sites such as Student Beans will come out on top, as the stronger their offerings, the more likely they are to convert. We are already beginning to see this, looking at the year as a whole, Student Beans has increased clicks via Awin by +61%, sales by +43% and revenue generated for advertisers has uplifted by +70%, with +19% spike in AOV. 

For more information on back-to-school trends, and how it might benefit your brand, please get in touch with a member of the Awin Client Partnerships Team 

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