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Customer Segmentation Examples for Back-to-School 2023

Customer Segmentation Examples for Back-to-School 2023

How Public, Private & Homeschool Moms Prep & Spend

Before brands know it, it’ll be K-12 back-to-school season again. It’s time to get studying these customer segmentation examples to get ready for the big test: will Mom buy what you’re selling?

In 2022, the National Retail Foundation reported the back-to-school market at $36.9B, with expected spending per household at $864 (which was the highest amount recorded by NRF in the last 15 years).

How US School Enrollment is Shifting

Parents of school-age children shudder when they think back to March 2020, when all schools shut down in-person learning, sending students home with Chromebooks and hastily-written instructions for “remote learning.” It didn’t go well. The New York Times reports that students lost the learning equivalent of 1/3rd of a school year (sadly, many have yet to catch up).

In the years since, public school alternatives have seen a rise in popularity and enrollment. Stanford education professor Thomas S. Dee delved into the data state-by-state and uncovered startling results:

From 2020-2023, US Public School Enrollment Shrunk by 1.2M Students
Where did these students go?
14% enrolled in private schools
25% started homeschooling
26% represent a decline in school age students
34% unexplained

“Unexplained” missing students seem to require explanation. The researcher has some ideas:

To account for the remaining 34% of unexplained enrollment losses, Dee suggested several explanations: an increase in truancy, growth in the prevalence of unregistered homeschooling, and an increase in the number of families skipping kindergarten. The researchers found the unexplained declines were concentrated in states that do not require kindergarten attendance.”

It’s possible the homeschool numbers are greater than reported. That would certainly be a preferable explanation to mass truancy.

So, our customer segmentation examples will focus on the differences in how public, private and homeschool moms get ready for back-to-school.

Wait. Isn’t ‘Dad’ a Back-to-School Customer Segmentation Example?

In Michal Clements and Teri Lucie Thompson’s book Tuning into Mom, the authors didn’t set out to exclude dads. But it turns out that moms are the driver of most purchase decisions for the household and children. Clements, who is Insight to Action’s Managing Principal, classifies ‘Mom’ as the household CEO and CFO, in charge of trillions of dollars each year in direct spending.

Education, specifically, is of top importance to moms:

“Across all income levels, whether mom has one child or many, infant or teen, the quality of the child’s education ranks as a very high priority for mom, third only to her relationship with the child and quality of communication between them.”

Of course, dads care about their children’s education, too. However, in these customer segmentation examples, brands would be wise to set their sights on moms (and the resources they manage).

Further Customer Segmentation Examples by Elementary, Middle & High School

Clements and Thompson pioneered segmenting moms by age of child, specifically, age of oldest child. Addressing moms of elementary, middle and high school children would also be instructive customer segmentation examples in their own right.

For now, I want to emphasize that moms are still the primary driver of back-to-school spending as their children reach middle and high school. Research for Tuning into Mom shows:

“We observe that mom’s influence in decision making with middle schoolers, teenagers, young adults, and even older children is a missed opportunity for brands. In many cases, mom is easier to reach than the child, and she continues to either make the decision outright and/or significantly influence her offspring.”

In other words, moms (not their high schoolers) are buying the 13.4 million Casio scientific calculators sold each year.

Customer Segmentation Examples for Back-to-School 2023

Customer Segmentation Examples:
Public School Moms

With about 49.5M students in US public schools, this customer segmentation example is certainly the majority, and drives the most spending. Let’s look at mom’s shopping list in more detail.

What public school moms will be buying (and when they will be buying it)

  • The All-Important Supply List
  • Clothing and Accessories
  • Shoes
  • Lunch and Snack Gear

In 2022, 69% planned to start their school shopping three or more weeks before the first day of school.

The All-Important Supply List

What goes into the $6B moms spend on school supplies? Backpacks, pencils, headsets, erasers, notebooks, folders, electronics and more! Every parent is familiar with the back-to-school supply list. And you can’t shop for these supplies until you get the list (will you need blue folders? Or purple ones? Are the pencils required to be pre-sharpened Ticonderoga brand?). NRF reports on when parents expect to receive lists from their schools

  • 12% early July
  • 42% end of July

Additionally, 81% of shoppers expect to shop during their state’s designated Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday, ranging from July 21-23 for Alabama to August 20-26 for Connecticut.

That means moms are cramming a lot of shopping into a very short time period. Brands that make “completing the list” quick and easy will earn love and loyalty from moms.

Clothing, Accessories & Shoes

One constant about children is that they are always outgrowing clothes and shoes! Last year, families spent $18B on back-to-school clothing, accessories and shoes.

Lunch and Snack Gear

Another, less disruptive, change that COVID brought to many schools is the prevalence of reusable water bottles. When in-person learning started back, many schools banned (or at least frowned upon) the use of drinking fountains. Stanley Quencher H2.0 FlowState is one new product example that is particularly taking K-12 by storm.

Lunch boxes themselves have become a status symbol (at least in the eyes of many moms). In one Facebook moms’ group, users rave about PlanetBox, which starts at $59.95 and can easily price over $100 with customizations.

Moms plan ahead for these bougie back-to-school items. Trendy supplies tend to sell out quickly, and price promotions early in the season will be welcomed.

Customer Segmentation Examples for Back-to-School 2023

Customer Segmentation Examples:
Private School Moms

Private school registration is elevated from pre-2020 enrollment, although we don’t know exactly by how much. The latest official numbers are from 2019, 4.7M students. It seems reasonable to estimate 5M private school students in 2023. And the increase seems to be coming from younger grades:

“According to the NAIS, leading the growth in enrollment was an increase in admissions in the lower grades. The 2021-2022 school year saw a 21.3% rise in enrollment in prekindergarten, compared with a 12.1% decline in the previous year. Kindergarten and second-grade enrollment in private schools increased by about 4.5% each, while first-grade rose by 6.2%”

Shopping requirements for this customer segmentation example are similar (but not identical!) to public school.

What private school moms will be buying (and when they will be buying it)

  • The All-Important Supply List
  • Clothing and Accessories
  • Shoes
  • Lunch and Snack Gear

The All-Important Supply List

Public school students and private school students need most of the same supplies. Lunch and snack gear are the same story. One difference with private schools is that sometimes the school charges a supply fee, which helps moms skip the shopping.

Clothing, Accessories & Shoes

Here’s where public and private schools really differ. While most public schools don’t require school uniforms, most private schools do. Uniform policies vary in strictness:

  • General guidelines: Solid color pants, skirts, dresses and shirts that can be purchased at most big box retailers like Walmart or Meijer
  • Specific uniform: Specific plaids, patterns or school crest embroidery that must be ordered from a specialty retailer like Schoolbelles or Lands’ End

Uniforms can be quite an investment, compared to the cost of more casual children’s fashion. Some schools offer informal uniform re-sale events, and there may be a business opportunity for a third-party to offer these services to private schools.

All moms know that the uniform is only part of the back-to-school wardrobe. From socks and underwear to leggings and hair bows, a lot goes into making her student school-ready. Brands like Children’s Place offer all these uniform extras in one convenient mini-shop.

One benefit to moms is that all of this shopping can be done online, with little input from her child. She can buy a five-pack of polos, delivered right to her door.

Customer Segmentation Examples:
Homeschool Moms

Homeschooling is growing in the US, with about 4.3M students enrolled at home. Interestingly, 6th-8th grades have the highest number of homeschooled students.

The prep and shopping requirements for this customer segmentation example are completely different from public and private schools. Mom’s focus is on preparing the academics and activities, with appearance taking a lesser role.

Typically, homeschool moms spend $700-$1,800 per student each school year. That makes the homeschool market between $3B-$8B annually.

What homeschool moms will be buying (and when they will be buying it)

  • Curriculum
  • Organizational Dues & Memberships
  • Clothing, Accessories & Shoes


Possibly the most important decision moms make is what curriculum to use. Popular curricula include:

  • Time4Learning
  • BJU Press
  • Abeka
  • The Good and the Beautiful
  • Compass Classroom

Many moms will evaluate curricula and purchase them at homeschool conventions, which happen across the country. For instance, The Annual Virginia Homeschool Convention was June 8-10, 2023, and featured 130 vendor booths. Admission ranged from $49-$129.

Organizational Dues & Memberships

Providing their children with hands-on learning experiences and socialization opportunities are high-priority for most homeschool moms. Back-to-school spending will also include:

  • Dues for local area homeschool groups, for field trips and fun
  • Dues for local educational co-ops, with classes taught by subject matter experts
  • Membership fees to zoos, museums, state & national parks and other cultural experiences. Many of these offer special hours and programs for homeschoolers.

Clothing, Accessories & Shoes

Some homeschool moms like to joke that they need to go shopping for back-to-school pajamas. But homeschool students need new wardrobes, just like any other children. Shopping requirements are similar to those of public school moms.

Back-to-school 2023 provides unique opportunities for brands to welcome these emerging customer segmentation examples. Learning about these moms’ priorities, concerns and needs is the first step to getting started.

Visit our Customer Segmentation Resources for more insights from our team. Consider signing up for our newsletter or attending our office hours to talk to one of our experts.