For retailers, the back-to-school season is one of the most important in the year. In the U.S., it runs second to only the winter holiday season. This year, the National Retail Federation predicts that spending–coupled with back-to-college spending–could total more than $83.6 billion, up ten percent over 2016’s total of $75.8 billion. Jumpshot data shows that back-to-school retailers saw major upticks in overall site traffic. Unique visitors among leading sites for back-to-school shoppers were up more than 13 percent over last year.

Amazon drove a huge segment of that growth, at least online, pulling the largest increases and largest overall numbers in traffic among top retailers, and it’s consistently dominant conversion rate only got stronger moving into August.

High-level Google search behavior for the category nicely illustrates the overall increase in sales this year.

Though Amazon saw the biggest increases year-over-year (YoY) in traffic gains from search, Jumpshot data indicates that the biggest single search keyword for “back-to-school” in both 2016 and 2017 has been “walmart school supplies”, outpacing Amazon’s top keyword—”amazon school supplies”—by 4 times. So the brick-and-mortar giant still likely derives a search benefit among in-person shoppers.

Growth in Back-to-School Traffic

Amazon led all sites in traffic growth, gaining a 16 percent increase in overall traffic and an 18 percent increase in Google search traffic.

YoY Change*
Site Overall Site Traffic Google Search Traffic
amazon.com 16.2% 18.4%
bestbuy.com -3.7% -14.2%
macys.com 9.6% -19.4%
target.com 13.3% 1.4%
walmart.com 6.5% 2.1%
*Comparing 7/15-8/20 data

Macy’s, though it netted a nearly 10 percent increase in sales compared to 2016, fell off sharply in the traffic from search. Only bestbuy.com saw a similar trend. Target and Walmart saw higher traffic overall but only marginal gains from search.

To capture this, Jumpshot analyzed consumer behavior from its 100-million-member panel of consumer devices, tracking traffic and purchase behavior from June to August.The metrics reflect behavior within the back-to-school category for Amazon, Walmart, and Target. For Macy’s and Best Buy, the numbers apply to the “kids” and “Computers & Tablets” categories, respectively.

Back-to-School Conversion Rates

Working with Internet Retailer, we expanded our inquiry to analyze conversion rates among leading retailers from June 1 to August 31 and added bkstr.com, a leading college textbook seller. It was bkstr.com (owned by Follett Higher Education) that saw the biggest upswing in conversion its conversion rate, more than doubling from 5.6 percent in July to 11.3 percent in August. That rate nearly hits Amazon’s usually untouchable conversion rate.

Conversion Rates Among Back-to-School Retailers
Conversion Rates Among Back-to-School Retailers

Other back-to-school retailers saw increases to their conversion rates as well.

Site Conversion Rate Week of August 28 Increase in Conversion Rates from July to August
amazon.com 13.4% 2%
bkstr.com 12.1% 101%
discountschoolsupply.com 9.3% 25%
ebags.com 4.5% -2%
officedepot.com 5.6% 7%
poppin.com 2.4% 12%
scholastic.com 0.14% -18%
staples.com 7.8% -4%
target.com 1.2% 16%
walmart.com 3.0% 12%

With the exception Ebags, Scholastic and Staples.com, all the sites saw an increase in conversion rates from July to August, and most of that boost came in the final two weeks of the year. Scholastic—geared more towards teachers—is something of an outlier since its conversion rates are particularly low for this group (always under 0.5 percent).