July 18, 2011, 5:30 PM

More back-to-school shoppers are looking for bargains online

PriceGrabber says shoppers will seek out comparison sites and look for web coupons.

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69% of shoppers say they will use online comparison shopping sites for back-to-school shopping, a major jump from last year, when only 23% of consumers said the same, according to a new study from PriceGrabber, a division of Experian plc. Additionally, 41% of shoppers said they will seek out back-to-school coupons from retailer web sites, up from 33% last year.

In a survey of 2,612 online shoppers conducted in May, PriceGrabber found that back-to-school budgets have decreased since 2010, as 48% of shoppers plan to spend $250 or more, compared with 56% last year. 25% of consumers say they plan to spend $500 or more, when 31% said the same in 2010.

“The modest but meaningful decrease in back-to-school shopping budgets this year demonstrates the lasting impact the recession is having on consumers’ mindsets,” says Graham Jones, general manager of PriceGrabber. “As consumers adjust to the new economic reality, they become smarter about their purchases over time. Given the Internet’s unrivaled ability to save shoppers time and money, it comes as no surprise to us that more consumers are flocking to online shopping.”

Similar to last year, clothing and basic school supplies stand at the top of online shoppers’ lists in 2011, as 79% of consumers indicated that they will shop for general school supplies such as notebooks, binders and pencils, compared with 76% in 2010; the survey, however, gave no indication of whether consumers will go online to shop for specific back-to-school items.

Fewer consumers will buy laptops and mobile phones in advance of the 2011-2012 school year than last year, the survey suggests. PriceGrabber says 18% of consumers will purchase a new laptop for a student, versus 24% in 2010. 11% plan on buying a phone or smartphone, compared with 13% last year. 10% of consumers plan to purchase a tablet computer this year; no comparative data was available.

“The tablet computer has come a long way since the debut of the iPad just over a year ago,” Jones adds. “Further analysis of the data supports the idea that tablet computers are providing back-to-school shoppers an alternative to more expensive laptops. Their convenient portability is likely also allowing consumers to forgo purchasing a new cell phone or upgrading to a smartphone.”

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