July 31, 2014, 3:30 PM

Back-to-school shopping shifts online

Half of consumers plan to do more online shopping this year to prepare for the upcoming school year, AOL research shows. Consumers cite better prices, quicker shopping and avoiding crowds as reasons for shopping online.

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The school bells will be chiming shortly, and back-to-school shopping can be big business for retailers. The average family with school age children will spend $669.28 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, according to research from the National Retail Federation. That’s an increase of 5% from last year’s average of $634.78.

And more of that shopping will happen online. 68% of consumers age 18-34 with back-to-school shopping lists plan to shop more online this year, according to data provided exclusively to Internet Retailer from AOL’s 2014 Back to School Season Preview. AOL conducted a survey of 284 back-to-school shoppers in July 2014, using AOL Listens, a panel of 12,000 consumers who have agreed to answer survey questions and review web sites and products.

Consumers cite better prices (25%), quicker shopping (23%) and avoiding crowds (21%) as their top reasons to shop online. The survey also found online resources made back-to-school shopping easier, whether purchases were made online or in stores. 72% of respondents said online resources gave them  more choice, 72% said they made shopping faster, 69% said they boosted shopper confidence in purchases and 52% said they made make shopping more fun.

The National Retail Federation 2014 Back-to-School Survey also found more consumers looking toward the web for school staples. 38.2% of consumers plan to shop online compared to 37.3% last year, with 19.6% of them doing it to save money.

Consumers are also increasingly turning to mobile shopping for school items, AOL found. Consumers use smartphones in stores to find coupons (66%), compare prices (55%), research products (73%) and look at customer reviews (61%).

NRF also found consumers using mobile devices more often this year. 21.8% of consumers will make a purchase via their smartphone, up from 18.2% last year. Tablet owners will use their tablets more for shopping, too. The NRF survey found 31.4% will purchase school items via their tablet, up from 29.9% last year.

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