Parents Are Increasingly Using Mobile Devices for Back-to-School Shopping

And they're buying tech products

This year's back-to-school shopping seems to have parents spending more on mobile—and more overall.

According to the results of a survey released today by Rubicon project, more than a third of parents have already begun shopping for the fall, spending an average of $917 per child. Parents of college freshmen are spending even more than that—more than half of those surveyed said they've already started shopping for the semester and plan to spend $1,300 per child.

According to the June survey of around 1,500 participants conducted by global polling firm Penn Schoen Berland, mobile or other online shopping is picking up. Around 60 percent of parents are planning to buy at least one thing on a mobile device and 30 percent plan to do at least a fourth of their shopping on mobile. And for the first time, Amazon is ahead of Wal-Mart in overall share of wallet.

"A strategy of just a banner ad does not fully embrace the shift that mom and dad have made to all forms of digital content, whether they be mobile gaming, extensive video consumption and overall the propensity they have for doing mobile shopping," Rubicon Project's chief communications officer Dallas Lawrence said in an interview. "Smart brands are going to be embracing a very comprehensive advertising strategy over the next two months to capture the billions of dollars these parents plan to spend online and on mobile getting their kids ready for school."

Back-to-school sales in the U.S. are expected to increase 2.6 percent this year, according to a report released today by eMarketer, with sales for the season expected to total $828.8 billion. That's up from the last year, when sales only grew by 1.6 percent. Of the growth in 2016, ecommerce is beginning to take the lead, with 43.3 percent of the growth of U.S. retail sales coming from online sales. However, that's behind last year's pace, when ecommerce represented 66.7 percent of growth of retail sales.

Where's all the money going? It's not hard to figure out: tech. But it's not just the college-bound that are buying devices more expensive than a calculator. Half of parents of students who are in kindergarten to eighth grade plan on shopping for tablets. Around 72 percent of college students are looking for a PC over an Apple computer. For smart phones, 52 percent of students are looking at Android while just 42 percent are eyeing Apple.

A separate study released in February by GfK and Facebook IQ, more than 60 percent of adults surveyed said they planned to begin shopping via mobile devices sometime this year. What's driving them? The convenience factor.

According to the Rubicon Project survey, 37 percent of K-12 and 40 percent of college parents said they clicked on a mobile ad in the past week before they were polled, and of those, a third made a purchase based on a mobile ad in the past week.

"What this really shows us for advertisers is if you reach mom and dad when, where and how they plan do to their shopping with the right message, they're highly likely to make a purchase," Lawrence said.

So where are adults spending their time online in between dance recitals and soccer practice? Around 68 percent of parents said they play mobile games, which is an everyday activity for 62 percent of parents. Also, moms and dads are now twice as likely to watch videos on their phones than on a traditional TV. Lawrence said that means mobile gaming ads are a "target-rich environment."

Parents are often late-night shoppers. About 20 percent of parents said they shop between 8 p.m. and midnight, while another 29 percent shopped after work between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Moms said they tend to be more price sensitive, with about 57 percent making purchases based on sales, compared with 45 percent of dads. However, 75 percent said where they buy an item depends on the price, while 62 percent said their decision is based on a sale.