Nothing softens the summer’s end and back-to-school blues like a little retail therapy. According to eMarketer, online shoppers spent more than $50 billion during the 2014 back-to-school shopping season, which represents a 16% gain from $43.3 billion in 2013. Sixteen percent!

A key aspect of the back-to-school shopping blitz is of course school supply shopping – and purchasing materials online is becoming more and more convenient for time-strapped families and teachers.

To uncover the most highly sought after school supplies driving unprecedented online sales for the 2014-2015 school year, SLI’s data team analyzed more than 33 million searches conducted between June 1 and August 22, 2014. We looked at three popular U.S. online retailers selling office and school supplies, including instructional materials. These e-commerce retailers are SLI customers that use our site search software to ensure thousands of products are easy for educators, parents, and office managers alike, to find and purchase.

Our analysis revealed that teachers and parents were busy readying classrooms, supply kits, and bookshelves with a variety of materials, from charts to stickers. The most popular items searched for were “chart pocket” at 96,000+ searches, “magnet” with 88,800+ searches, and “calendar” with close to 76,000 searches. Trailing down the top 20 list, we saw that “pencils” garnered 40,800 searches and “Dr. Seuss” more than 32,000.

Common Core Materials

A not too surprising discovery among the site search data analyses was the volume of interest around the term “Common Core,” indicating that many teachers – and possibly parents as well – searched for materials related to the mandated, yet controversial standard.

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is an educational initiative in the U.S., currently adopted by 44 of the 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, that details what students in K-12 grades should know in English, history, social studies, science and mathematics at the end of each grade. It seeks to establish consistent educational standards across the states and ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter college programs or the workforce.

Our data analysis revealed that during the back-to-school season, there were more than 72,000 searches for “Common Core.” Digging deeper into the numbers, we found:

  • Top Five States – Site searches originated most from CA (with nearly 3x that of the next state), followed by NY, IL, and FL with between 4,200 to nearly 5,000 searches each, and then GA with 3,000+ searches.
  • Top Five Grades – While 75% of the searches conducted for “Common Core” did not include a specific grade, “Common Core + 2nd grade” garnered the most interest with 4,500+ searches, followed by 3rd, 4th and 5th grades, which averaged 3,300 searches each. First grade saw just shy of 2,000 searches.

A value add of SLI is that we provide online retail retailers with insight regarding the products consumers are seeking. Accordingly, vendors know which products to stock and can promote those items consumers are most likely to buy. And through our easy-to-use search, consumers can readily find the merchandise they desire and get recommendations on related products that they may have overlooked, leading to a truly rewarding shopping experience.

Visit our library of best-practice case studies to see how SLI helps leading e-commerce retailers accelerate sales by connecting shoppers with the products they’re most likely to buy.