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Navigating Back-to-Class Season: Understanding customer sentiment with Walmart Luminate Customer Perception

Sharpen your view of back-to-class shoppers with new insights that bring to light opportunities for suppliers and how they can adapt to changing customer trends

Bright yellow school buses, backpacks stuffed with new supplies, and the crisp promise of a fresh start mark the return of an exciting and, at times, turbulent time for families — the back-to-class season. The beginning of a new school year can bring out a mix of emotions — from the nerves of budding kindergartners and the excitement of eager college students to the blend of relief and anxiety from parents and caregivers as they prepare for the year ahead. In a recent survey of the Walmart Customer Spark Community, 55% of back-to-class customers reported feeling excited and hopeful about the upcoming school year, while 23% expressed hesitations and 11% confessed to feeling anxious 1.

New responsibilities like morning drop-off, extracurricular activities, and homework deadlines usher parents, caregivers, and educators alike into new routines that can lead to changes in consumer behavior. Value, convenience, and efficiency become priorities for families as they navigate through their long to-do lists. Therefore, understanding the influence of new routines and schedules on shopping behaviors is vital during this time of the year.

With the return to the classroom happening now around the U.S, we've uncovered new insights that bring to light opportunities for suppliers and how they can adapt to changing customer trends.

Schedules are becoming tighter and affecting shopping habits.

While 30% of Walmart back-to-class customers say they stick to the same routine regardless of the time of year, 24% say they will spend more time in the car, 17% say they will be waking up earlier to make breakfast and school lunches, and 14% say they will be meal prepping. To make mealtime and snack time easier, many customers opt for prepackaged snacks (52%) and ingredients for easy meals (36%).

42% of back-to-school customers are expecting to spend more this year compared to last year.

44% of back-to-school (K-12) customers started shopping three or more weeks in advance of the first day of school and only 15% of customers said they planned to purchase items 1-6 days in advance. Similarly, 43% of back-to-college (higher education) customers planned to start shopping three or more weeks in advance and 47% planned to start within three weeks of the start of class.

Amidst the current macroeconomic climate, the majority (73%) of customers continue to turn to Walmart to fill their baskets because of low prices compared to other major retailers. Walmart is making this year’s back-to-school shopping experience fun, easy, and affordable by offering the 14 most popular items on school supply lists at the same prices as last year.

75% of K-12 back-to-school shoppers plan to spend under $500, whereas only 59% of Higher Education shoppers plan to spend under $500 on back-to-college shopping this year.

School supplies remain the #1 item on the back-to-class shopping list.

Back-to-class customers are starting fresh this school year and purchasing clothes & shoes (72%), prepackaged snacks (52%), new backpacks (48%), and lunchboxes (38%) for the year ahead. These purchases often happen during dedicated trips to the store rather than during regular grocery shopping trips.

78% of customers say convenience is important when it comes to back-to-school shopping.

And 58% of customers say they chose Walmart for the convenience of location while 56% say they enjoy the convenience of a one-stop shop.

“Walmart made it so easy! My kids don't start until Sept 6, but I entered school supplies in [the] app, chose [their] school and grade and added it all to the cart. I've been done for over a month,” said one Walmart Customer Spark Community survey respondent.

Aligned to last year, the majority (79%) of customers are visiting stores to purchase supplies, but not before conducting research on things like pricing, features, and online availability. 49% of back-to-class customers reported taking the time to research online before making a related purchase in-store and 46% say they did research online and chose to make the purchase online as well.

The back-to-school season is not just about selling more merchandise; it's an opportunity to understand and respond effectively to shifting routines, emotional tides, and the desire for a smoother transition. And, as families navigate this annual period of embracing new routines and tackling their shopping list, Walmart Luminate Customer Perception makes understanding the preferences and needs of families a no brainer – no studying required.

Capture the voice of the customer with quantitative studies, quick video surveys, and intuitive tools that hold the potential to provide a comprehensive view of the customer. Walmart Luminate Customer Perception enables you to gather real customer feedback from the audiences you want to hear from most. Through granular hyper-targeting, our proprietary question database, expert survey reviews, and results visualizations like word clouds and charts, you can turn back-to school season into an opportunity to delight customers and exceed their expectations.

Stay sharp and optimize for success this year with first-party insights from verified Walmart customers. Learn more about Walmart Customer Perception's capabilities and how it can help your brand campaigns here.


1Proprietary First-Party Data, Walmart Customer Spark Community. Survey conducted between August 16, 2023, and August 17, 2023, n=618.