3 Last-Minute Email Ideas for the Back-to-School Season

It’s that time of year again: Kids are headed back to school, families are in a frenzy for supplies, and retail is undergoing its second-most lucrative period of the year.

Back-to-school spending is at an all-time high. The National Retail Federation is forecasting that total spending on K-12 and college supplies will reach $80.7 billion this season.

Many retailers got a head start on back-to-school marketing this year to align with Amazon Prime Day in mid-July. According to RetailMeNot, peak moments for back-to-school shopping take place on Prime Day, the first weekend in August, and Labor Day weekend.  

While two of the peak dates have passed, there’s still time to drum up demand in anticipation of Labor Day. Here are three approaches email marketers can take to drive revenue in the final weeks of the season. 

1. Remind shoppers that offers are available in-store.

As the back-to-school shopping season enters its final leg, email marketers should remind customers that their transactions are welcome regardless of where they take place.

Digital marketers tend to think primarily about driving online conversions, but disregarding the in-store experience could result in missed opportunities. The majority of back-to-school shoppers prefer to buy in-store. Data from Cardlytics found that 79% of back-to-school spend is going to brick-and-mortar stores. Just 17% of shoppers take an online-only approach. 

“All this means is that brands need to be ever vigilant about proving optimal in-store experiences versus assuming most consumers will shop online,” wrote Steve Olenski for Marketing Land

Pro tip: If your online deals are also available in-store, let customers know. A simple callout that a coupon code is also redeemable at store locations will result in a more seamless shopping experience for customers. And with the majority of impulse purchases still taking place in physical stores, it could also be a boon for your brand. 

2. Help students look fresh. 

Notebooks, pencils, and kleenex always make the shopping list – but that’s not where the majority of families are spending their back-to-school budgets. Families with K-12 students will allocate most of their spend on clothing and accessories ($240 on average). 

And students want to look on point. The second week of August, “back to school outfits” reached its peak popularity as a search term on Google. 

As a result, publishers are rounding up pop culture-inspired outfit ideas. It would benefit clothing retailers to take similar cues. 

Depending on the brand, your communications might be targeted to parents since they have the money. But, don’t ignore the kids altogether. They have major pull when it comes to their apparel purchase decisions.

“People want not just the brand, but the story around the brand,” said Ryan Fisher, a partner in the consumer and retail practice of consultancy firm A.T. Kearney, in a CNBC article. “And it’s both parents that are buying and the children that are buying. You’re seeing kids having more influence on the purchases.”

Pro tip: The biggest benefit to marketers at this point in the season is that they can utilize data from July and early-August to inform content. Analyze email click-throughs, conversions, and physical store data. Use this to curate “what’s trending in your area” emails and deliver personalized recommendations to those who are still unsure of what to buy. 

3. Don’t forget about the teachers. 

The New York Times reported last year that 94% of public school teachers in the U.S. used their own money to pay for supplies – without reimbursement. 

A quick search for “back to school teacher discounts” yields dozens of recent articles listing the retailers offering teacher discounts. This indicates that this segment of back-to-school shoppers is on the hunt for deals. 

Make it easier on teachers (a group that’s already stressed to the max) to find what they are looking for, and let them know you’re on their side.

Pro tip: If you are one of the retailers offering discounts to teachers, don’t forget to remind them.

If you have a loyalty program specifically for teachers or they’ve taken advantage of your deals in the past and you have their emails – reach out to them. Send them a targeted email showing them some love for the hard work they do, and inviting them to finish the rest of their back-to-school shopping with your brand.