It’s back-to-school season. A time when parents stock up on school supplies, excitedly pack lunches, and take adorable pictures of their kids holding up a sign on the first day of school. But this season is unique in that it’s paired with the potential return to office for many who have worked from home over the past few months.

Quantcast was interested in this unique dichotomy, diving into the top three trends we see this back-to-school season. Through Quantcast Audience Planner, we looked at users viewing “back to school” and “homeschooling content” in August to understand who these consumers are and what other products and topics they might be interested in.

  1. Home Sweet Home: Back to Work or Work from Home?

While interest in “back to school” indexed high against typical parent-related topics such as “supply lists” and “help your student,” the work-from-home crowd dominated the office supply category. Surprisingly, only 50% of the audience viewing back-to-school-related content have children and those who don’t are mainly interested in file cabinets, printer ink, and other office products. People viewing back-to-school content are also doubling down on the new work-from-home world: they are 66 times more likely than the average internet user to look at content related to “keep[ing] your office” and “stylish office.” Meanwhile, people looking at keyword content around “back to office” and “return to office” reflected people’s trepidation, with “advanced talks” (101x), “more contagious delta variant” (50x), “company culture” (37x), and “flexible work” (37x) indexing highly. What this tells us is that while there is still an opportunity with back-to-school consumers, there may be an even larger one with the work-from-home crowd, who are recommitting to their home offices and investing in office furniture and supplies.

  1. Blending the Trend: Who Are the Homeschoolers?

As some employees are seeing a permanent shift towards work from home, we may be seeing a similar trend with homeschooling. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, there was a sharp increase in homeschooling during the COVID-19 pandemic, from 3-4% in Spring 2019 to 8-9% in March 2020. Homeschooling is distinct from remote or “distance” learning because all learning is done within the household, so it is parent-led home education.

So who are these parents, eager to inspire their children from the comfort of home? This homeschooling audience skews 62% female, with a household income of $50-100K. There’s excitement around the potential benefits that a homeschool education can provide. Other high indexing keywords include “common core” (197x), “phonics” (65x), “teaching resources” (38x), “fine motor” (32x), “lesson plan” (32x), and “help your child” (22x). To capitalize on this new, homeschooling-mom audience, retailers should consider messaging that aligns with their mindset and needs, appealing to their desire to provide the best education for their children and their likely interest in desk supplies and organizational school items.

  1.  The Opportunity: How Has E-Commerce Accelerated?

Despite the public’s overall apprehension, there is still a large opportunity for back-to-school retail in 2021. Families with elementary-to-high school aged children plan to spend an average of $849.90 on school supplies, up $59 from last year. Looking at last year’s data, US e-commerce sales were up 32% in 2020 from 15% in 2019, contributing an additional $105 billion in US online revenue in 2020. This same trend is predicted in 2021 with 48% of K-12 shoppers and 43% of college students searching for digital deals.

Looking at office stores more broadly, digital is driving recovery for big box retailers. In January and February 2020, Staples sales were down -9% year-over-year, but have since recovered to normal levels, beginning in the spring of 2021. This recovery was almost entirely the result of online sales. In the spring of 2020, online accounted for only 15-20% of weekly sales; in 2021, this accounts for 50% of sales.

Shifting Situations Settle Down

After the last year and a half at home, people are settling into their new realities. Whether they are returning to school, to the office, or making a longer-term commitment to staying at home, they need the supplies to do it. Some children are returning to school for the first time since March 2020 and are ready to replace the items from their last in-person year, including their outgrown backpacks, worn-out lunch bags, and busted binders. Families that have determined they prefer homeschooling need to get organized to prepare for another year. And employees who have decided or been told that they will continue working remotely are eager to improve their home office spaces for the longer haul. We can help brands follow these still-shifting dynamics of back-to-school, back-to-office, or back-to-home with the Quantcast Platform’s real-time behavioral insights, which allow you to deliver ads to the most relevant audience at the right time. 

Learn More

For an in-depth look at recent trends in Canada, including an accelerated growth of e-commerce, new online courses, and homeschool audiences, as well as a look at the different shopping timelines of moms and students, you can download Back-To-School Insights: 2021 Canada Consumer Trends. If you are interested in partnering with Quantcast to harness deep insights about your audiences, please get in touch here

Source: Quantcast Audience Planner, August 1-25, 2021, keywords “back to school” and “homeschool”