Back-to-School Email Campaigns To Get Inspired By

Back-to-School Email Campaigns To Get Inspired By
09 August, 2023 • ... • 3084 views
Irene Dmitrieva
by Irene Dmitrieva

The back-to-school season is a great time to ramp up your email marketing efforts and drive growth for your business. Here are best practices in back-to-school email marketing and some inspiring email campaigns to get you started.

Why send out back-to-school emails

In addition to the start of the school year, the first day of fall marks the end of the summer vacation season and a general increase in business activity. Parents and students are searching for deals on supplies and gear for the new school year, so this is a great opportunity to promote your products or services. Even if your business has nothing to do with education, you can still take advantage of this loyal audience. 

The National Retail Federation (NRF) conducts an annual survey to assess how American families will shop for back-to-school items. In 2022, the average family with children in grades K-12 spent $864.35, which would total $36.9 billion across all families surveyed.

Total back-to-school spending in billions 2007-2023, according to NRF. The expenses have been growing since 2007, with the largest predicted number of $41.58 billion in 2023.
Source: National Retail Federation

What do people spend their money on during the season? According to NRF, the top three categories include electronics, clothing & accessories, and shoes.

Top spending categories during the back to school season include electronics ($15.2 billion estimated in 2023), clothing and accessories ($12 billion estimated in 2023), and shoes ($7.8 billion estimated in 2023)
Source: National Retail Federation

As the survey shows, people are willing to spend a lot ahead of the back-to-school season.  It is the biggest marketing craze of the year, generating millions in revenue. Businesses should take advantage of this opportunity.

In 2023, NRF also ran a survey about popular shopping places during the back-to-school season. According to the said survey, 55% of consumers plan to shop online.

Top three shopping places for back-to-school in 2023 include online (55%), discount store, and department store (45% each)
Source: National Retail Federation

Same goes for college students, with a larger gap between these options — but online stores are still winning:

Top back-to-college shopping destinations include online (49%), department store (35%), and discount store (33%)
Source: National Retail Federation

For you, it means that sending back-to-school emails is a great way to stimulate sales in your online store. However, there are more reasons to run a campaign this season:

  1. To connect with customers and show that you care about their needs.
  2. To promote special deals or sales, which can increase customer loyalty and spending.
  3. To stay top of mind with customers, which can lead to increased business down the road.
  4. To engage with customers, making your brand more memorable in the process.

Best strategies for back-to-school email marketing

Summer will end quickly, so retailers need to take action in advance to plan their marketing campaigns. There are several things to keep in mind when preparing back-to-school emails:

Start early

The summer months are a great time to launch your back-to-school email campaign. As students prepare for semesters and new courses, you can’t afford not to take advantage of this opportunity. 

The timing of your back-to-school email marketing campaign is crucial. If you wait until August to start sending emails, then potential clients will be flooded with sales pitches from other brands and it could turn them off. Instead, if possible try starting early like July.

Why so? According to NRF, 56% of shoppers started preparing for school in early July this year. That’s why promoting your deals and offers via email in advance gives you a competitive edge.

Make sure to keep up with cultural trends

Your email marketing strategy should always be in line with the latest cultural trends. This is especially important during back-to-school season, as young people are highly influenced by what’s popular at the moment.

Consider the interests of the younger generation, and analyze the latest trends, events, and “hot topics” that may excite your target audience. If you can show that you’re up-to-date with the latest trends, you’ll be more likely to connect with your audience and get them interested in what you have to say.

This summer, the Barbie movie has become the talk of the town. That’s why this email from Honeydew USA promotes a selection of pink clothes as a part of their back-to-school marketing strategy.

Email from Honeydew USA that promotes a selection of pink clothes and Barbie merch
Source: Deal Town

Aim for the college market

Back-to-school season is not just for elementary and high school students. College students need to shop for clothes, electronics, and dorm room furniture as well. They want to be prepared for the new semester and have everything they need to succeed. 

Apple remembers that not only children continue their studies in September, but students as well. That’s why their fall messages are also for college students and their parents.

An email from Apple that promotes buying their products for college with a tagline “Mac is the powerhouse you need for college years”
Source: Really Good Emails

Adidas used the word “campus” in its marketing campaign to appeal to college students.

An email from Adidas that promotes a sale of clothing and accessories with a tagline “Back to campus”
Source: Email Monks

Add value with help and advice

Another good tactic is to add interesting tips/recommendations to your back-to-school email campaign. In this way, you show your expertise on the subject and increase the loyalty of your readers. Focus on the usefulness of the information provided, rather than on your benefits.

Here is a great example of the message with ideas and recipes for school lunches:

Back to school email with a selection of afterschool snack ideas
Source: Cartlyfts

Use emojis

Adding an emoji to your subject line can help you add interest and excitement to an email that might otherwise be composed only of words. They also can help capture the reader’s attention. Plus, an email emoji can convey emotion and add personality to your message.

A selection of back-to-school subject lines with emojis that include backpack, bell, and stationery emojis

Be careful with emojis if you’re appealing to Gen Z consumers! According to The Washington Post and other sources like The New York Post, this generation interprets popular emojis’ meanings differently compared to Millennials. For example, they consider 👍 and 🙂 passive-aggressive and hostile, and they use 😭 and 💀 as “crying/dead from laughter”.

Offer discounts and incentives

Offer your customers discounts and incentives for shopping with you during the back-to-school season. This is a great way to show your appreciation for their business and encourage them to continue shopping with you in the future.

Incentives can include anything from free shipping to exclusive coupons and discounts. Whatever you choose, make sure it is something that will appeal to your target audience and encourage them to take advantage of your offer.

Discounts are also a great way to show your customers that you are committed to providing them with the best possible deals. By offering discounts on your products and services, you can show your customers that you are willing to work with them and save their money.

In this example, the customer is offered a discount for your purchases:

Back to school email that promotes a promo code that gives 15% off everything
Source: MaiCharts

Ideas for back-to-school email content

Back-to-school emails can be either informational or promotional.

Informational emails

These campaigns are all about giving your customers useful information that will help them as they head back to school or college. It’s a way to build trust and credibility with your audience, and it can also be a valuable way to drive traffic to your website or online store.

In fact, you can come up with a lot of informative content for your back-to-school emails:

  1. How to be more productive in the classroom.
  2. Fashion trends for the coming fall.
  3. Gift ideas for favorite teachers.
  4. How to help your child adjust to a new school.
  5. Selections of useful studying materials.
  6. How to make school lunches delicious and healthy.
  7. Poem greetings.
  8. Ideas for holiday hairstyles, etc.

Informational emails can come in handy if you’re promoting an educational organization. Here’s a great example of an informational email with resources for studying from Google:

Back to school email from Google that invites subscribers to check out interactive workshops to get acquainted with IT-related professions like UX design, Data Analytics, and more
Source: Really Good Emails

Promotional emails

Here are some great promotional email ideas for your back-to-school campaigns:

  1. Give away freebies like pencils, pens, and notepads with every purchase made during the back-to-school season.
  2. Hold a contest for the best back-to-school photo or video and offer prizes like gift cards or discounts.
  3. Create a loyalty program for customers who shop with you during the back-to-school season.
  4. Partner with local businesses to offer discounts and promotional deals for back-to-school shoppers.
  5. Send out promotional emails with coupon codes and special offers for back-to-school shoppers.

Subject line ideas your audience will love

Marketers are going crazy trying to get attention from their subscribers. You need something that will stand out and make them stop scrolling on the inbox. The first step in doing that is coming up with an interesting subject line for your message. In 33% of cases, it is responsible for whether or not your subscriber opens the email.

Here are some good ideas for the email subject line:

  1. “Back to school for High Grades’’
  2. “Stylish for school”
  3. “Our official September 1st discount”
  4. Everything you need for back-to-school season at an affordable price”
  5. “Hurry up and check everything for school – we’ve got an extra 20% off here”
  6. “Back to school in style”
  7. “Back to school – it’s so easy with [name of your company]”
  8. “School uniforms from $4.99”
  9. “ALL you need for school – spend $15, save $5.”
  10. “Back to School – Discounts”
  11. “Now writing it down…”
  12. “Free shipping on everything you need for school >>>”
  13. “Back to school: stylish shoes for the whole family”
  14. “Super savings on school supplies”
  15. “Become a style icon ✅”
  16. “Top Score! Stylish for school from $9.99”
  17. “ETERNAL WARRANTY on school supplies”
  18. “Back to school – picking a style”
  19. “We can’t count – 2 + 2 = 5”
  20. “Packing Backpacks?”

Common elements:

  • The examples show that retailers often use catchy phrases to welcome students back to school after a long vacation. The phrases are meant to evoke a sense of excitement and anticipation for the upcoming school year. 
  • Special promotions, discounts, competitive pricing, and freebies are often used to lure students and parents and help save money. 
  • Back-to-school subject lines can also focus on tips for saving money when packing for school, as well as fashion tips and ideas for school children. 

Back-to-school email campaign examples you must see

Back to school is a great time to connect with consumers. Here are some ideas for inspiration to help you make the most of this opportunity. 

TOMS — Use the school style

The typical school setting is often associated with lessons, school desks, and chalkboards. However, TOMS (a shoe company) used these same features in their newsletter to create a fun and unique design. 

Email from TOMS that promotes items for preschool, grade school, middle school, and college, and uses school-related items (backpacks and stationery) and fonts that imitate handwriting to create the back-to-school atmosphere
Source: Designmodo

The email marketers did a great job on fall promotions by creating offers that would appeal to a wide range of people. They didn’t just focus on one group but had something for everyone. This made the email more effective and likely to result in conversions.

TOMS’ designers focus on the design of their messages, without including any information about prices or promotion duration. This creates a sense of incentive and encourages recipients to visit the website to learn more. The text of the preheader, “Free shipping”, is also prominently displayed in a different color, further highlighting this important offer.

Dresslily — Engage with GIF

Interactive elements in email marketing can be very effective in engaging subscribers and increasing click rates. There are a few popular interactive elements that can help to enhance subscriber engagement. These include GIFs, timers, and sliders. Using videos is another great way to engage your audience.

This email from Dresslily uses a GIF of a running clock to create a sense of urgency.

Back to school email from Dresslily that has an animated GIF with an alarm clock to create a sense of urgency
Source: Business 2 Community

Olive Ave and State — Sell beauty and fashion products

If you sell beauty and fashion products, be sure to do back-to-school email marketing. Choose products that complement each other to create a unified look.

For example, Olive Ave offers a selection of stylish looks that will be perfect for young teachers or high school students.

Back to school email from Olive Ave that features pictures of hairstyles, hair accessories, and shoes appropriate for school, all photos are high-quality and in warm fall tones
Source: MailCharts

While Olive Ave clearly targets older audiences or at least those with a more mature and dress code-friendly sense of style, State focuses on kids and teenagers. Take a look at their colorful email that promotes a collection of backpacks for every taste:

Email from State that features pictures of colorful backpacks and child and teenage models wearing them
Source: Email Love

Neon, printed, with flowers and dinosaurs — even the fussiest student can find something for them. We like this email because it showcases the variety of choices without being overwhelming color-wise — enough space and a calm color scheme of the whole email balances it all out. 

Natural Life — Sell stationery

Many schools in the US and European countries have a strict dress code or even uniforms. That’s why for many school students funky notebooks and all the rest are the only means of self-expression. So, don’t neglect a back-to-school campaign if you’re selling some of these! 

Here’s a great example of Natural Life. This brand of quirky planners, bags, lunch boxes, and all the rest has embraced its quirkiness and invites subscribers to be weird together.

Back to school email from Natural Life that promotes colorful planners with hand-drawn illustrations with a tagline “You are my kind of weird”
Source: Deal Town

PetSmart — Promote products that are unrelated to school

Even if you sell products that are not related to school, you can still use the back-to-school theme in your email newsletters. PetSmart provided a great example of how to use the beginning of the school year to sell dog products. In the email, the store offers products that will keep your pet from getting bored while his or her owner is at school.

Back to school email from PetSmart that promotes dog toys, beds, and costumes with designs loosely related to school like apparel resembling a uniform and stationery-shaped toys
Source: Movableink

Grammarly — Use humor

Grammarly’s back-to-school marketing campaign isn’t a typical hard sell. Instead, they sent a series of email drip campaigns with fun facts about the school. This educational approach won them loyalty from users, who appreciated the valuable content instead of feeling like they were being sold to.

A funny back-to-school email from Grammarly with a copy that includes a fake “fun fact” that emojis were invented by emo bands and a 55% discount on paid plans
Source: Really Good Emails

Final thoughts

By sending out back-to-school emails, you can remind parents and students of your business while promoting deals or sales. Also, staying top of mind with customers can lead to more business in the future. Creating an engaging and memorable email campaign is a great way to take advantage of the back-to-school season.

There are two types of back-to-school emails: informational and promotional. Informational emails can provide helpful tips and resources on everything from choosing the right backpack to packing a healthy lunch. Promotional emails might offer discounts or freebies for customers who shop during the back-to-school season.

Follow some best practices to succeed while preparing your back-to-school email campaign:

  1. Start planning and designing your email campaign in advance. This will give you plenty of time to come up with creative ideas and test different versions of your emails.
  2. Keep up with cultural trends by considering the interests of the younger generation and analyzing the latest trends. 
  3. In addition to elementary and high school students, don’t forget about college students. 
  4. Be sure to offer discounts and incentives to increase the likelihood of conversion. By providing a discount or incentive, you are giving customers a reason to buy from you instead of the competition. 
  5. Make your subject line stand out by using emojis which will help you get noticed and convey emotion. Remember that the subject line affects your email open rate.

This article was originally published in July 2022 and was updated in August 2023 to make it more relevant and comprehensive.

09 August, 2023
Article by
Irene Dmitrieva
As a marketing copywriter, I have experience creating compelling content for websites and social media posts. My background in market research helps me ensure that my copy is both on-brand and data-driven. I am excited to bring my skills and experience to Selzy team and help drive success for this company.
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