Does Back-to-School Online Shopping Really have to be a Chore?

Everyone loves retail online shopping, right? Maybe not. New research from Performics and Northwestern University—the Digital Satisfaction Index™ (DSI)—suggests that consumers aren’t very satisfied with some aspects of their current digital retail shopping experience. This retail dissatisfaction, coupled with the expense of back-to-school shopping, likely has many parents dreading the start of the school year.

And gone are the days when parents would rush to purchase necessities a few weeks before classes began. Now, parents are waiting until September and even October to finalize their purchases.


Aside from deals and discounts, parents are curious about emerging fall fashion trends for their kids. Parents that wait until around Columbus Day weekend in October to shop will expect to save 40%+ on fall apparel (Marketwatch).


To construct the DSI, Performics and Northwestern University surveyed over 3,000 participants. Through this process, we identified four key factors of digital satisfaction: Utility, Privacy, Social and Trust, across four verticals: Retail, Household, Finance and Travel. In the U.S., participants were least satisfied in the retail vertical, which scored a 57.3 on the 100-point satisfaction scale. What is exactly driving retail dissatisfaction?

  • Utility: Compared to other verticals, retail shoppers are less satisfied with utility, defined as the usefulness of the shopping site or app, and the most important factor to Retail shoppers. In fact, many prefer the offline shopping experience, indicating that touching/seeing a product is important to them in the purchase path. Many survey participants, especially women, also noted that they’d shop online more often if the return process was easier.
  • Privacy: 93% of Gen Xers (36–51 year-olds)—a large portion of parents shopping for back-to-school—said they were concerned about online privacy, defined as the level of comfort they have in information being collected about them online.

Boosting Back-to-School Shopping Satisfaction

For retail brands, success hinges on deep understanding of audience intent, wants, needs and concerns. To make back-to-school shopping more enjoyable—and not just another chore—brands should focus on utility and privacy.


Step one: identify and eliminate hurdles in your site’s shopping path, especially in the checkout process.

Step two: create content that’s engaging and relevant. Consumers should be able to easily find what they need, when they need it.

Step three: leverage conversion optimization tactics by implementing A/B testing. For example, you can easily test the effectiveness of product recommendations or create various versions of the checkout process to learn which garners the most conversions.

Retailers should also keep in mind that consumers may want to shop in-store, as touching/seeing products is important to them. Knowing this, retailers can leverage Local Inventory Ads (LIAs) to help showcase their products. When shoppers search for specific item, Google will present them with an LIA; once they click through, they will be directed to a promoted page, where they can check whether the storefront contains the product they want.

Retailers can also utilize local search ads that combine Google Maps features. So when a shopper is looking for directions to a store, on-the-go via a mobile device, that store can display special in-store offers, as well as in-store inventory availability.


According to the DSI, consumers in the U.S. place much more importance on retail privacy vs. consumers in the U.K.  This is likely because U.K. has more privacy safeguards, like cookie opt-in consent, which make U.K. consumers feel more comfortable with data collection.  U.S. retailers should take note that any measure to increase user comfort around personal data collection—like transparent policies and cookie opt-in consent—could serve to boost user satisfaction around privacy during this back-to-school shopping season.

By streamlining processes, creating relevant content and ensuring consumers are comfortable with data collection, retailers have the opportunity to generate meaningful connections with their audiences, perhaps making back-to-school shopping a little less of a chore this year.

Comments are closed.

Performics Newsletter