Best Back-to-School Subject Lines That Actually Work

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It’s *that* time of the year again — time to start a back-to-school email marketing campaign. And this means that you have to come up with a catchy subject line to make your emails visible. To make it easier for you, we’re sharing best tips and practices for back-to-school email subject lines.

The importance of back-to-school email subject lines

When you run an email campaign, your competitors aren’t the only fellow players in the industry — you also compete with all the brands in the inbox of each subscriber. According to the Radicati Group, an average person receives more than 100 emails per day. And, according to Statista, this number will increase during the next 3 years.

Number of emails sent each day 2017 to 2025
Source: Statista

If you take that into account, you’ll understand that the competition is insane. But a good email subject line will help you stand out. A study by SuperOffice showed that 33% of recipients decide to open an email based on a subject line. Think of a subject line as a profile picture on a dating app. It’s the first thing users see, it makes the first impression and affects the decision to swipe left or right. If you’re able to make your subscribers interested enough to open the email, you have more chances to achieve the goals of your campaign — just like a good profile picture makes more matches.

Back-to-school email subject line examples to use in your next campaign

There are many reasons to run a back-to-school email campaign — and different types of emails will have different subject lines. Let’s take a look at back-to-school email types and which email subjects are commonly used for them.

General newsletters

Back-to-school newsletters offer valuable content related to this stressful time. The most popular type of content is tips and checklists.

From: Red Tricycle

Subject: Genius Back-to-School Tips from Teachers

Back-to-school email from Red Tricycle
Source: Email Competitors

We like this subject line because it shows the expertise — since teachers give you advice, you can trust them. It instantly grabs attention. But that’s not the only tactic — take a look at these examples:

  • 20 Smart Back-to-School Tips and Ideas (Parents)
  • Back to School Tips For Parents (Native Remedies)
  • Save more and stress less with Back to School recipes, tips, and savings from Ziploc® brand (Right Home)

Sales & discounts

The start of a new academic year is a great time to offer discounts — especially for anything that helps with getting ready for school.

From: Kidpik

Subject: 🚌 Get Ready For Back-2-School With 25% Off

Back-to-school sales email from Kidpik
Source: MailCharts

This email from Kidpik is an example of a basic back-to-school sales email. This type of email is not very inventive when it comes to subject lines. In this case, the best strategy is getting straight to the point:

  • Back to School Is Back: Save 20% Sitewide (Frenchtoast School Uniforms)
  • Get 40% off Epic Unlimited for [Name] — just in time for Back to School (Epic for Kids)
  • Get 55% Off Grammarly Premium for Back to School (Grammarly)

These subject lines already offer something valuable — and your customer is already enticed to open this email and learn how to accept that offer.

Special offer emails

Special offer emails are a subtype of sales emails that are focused on limited editions, rare deals, free items, and other outstanding events. 

From: Baskin-Robbins

Subject: Back-to-School Sweetness

Special offer email from Baskin-Robbins
Source: Email Competitors

For example, this email from Baskin-Robbins promotes a new flavor of the month and back-to-school discounts. 

From: Once Upon A Farm

Subject: Enter to win $1,900+ in prizes: Back-to-School Sweepstakes

Back-to-school email from Once Upon A Farm
Source: MailCharts

And this email from Once Upon A Farm promotes a seasonal contest. When it comes to subject lines about giveaways and sweepstakes, the best thing you can do is voicing the prize right away — customers should understand what exactly they might get out of this.

And here are more ideas for back-to-school special offer subject lines:

  • The Back to School Edit (Marie-Chantal)
  • Back to School Special (Tea Collection)
  • New Arrival: The Back to School Collection 📓 (Pair Eyewear)

Stationery-themed

When you think of back-to-school shopping, the first thing that comes to your mind is school supplies. 

From: Skip Hop

Subject: Pop Quiz! What’s on your back-to-school checklist? 🎒 📚✏️

Back-to-school email from Skip Hop
Source: Email Competitors

This sales email from Skip Hop suggests buying back-to-school bundles. Pay attention to the email subject — Skip Hop added emojis so subscribers could understand that the email is about school supplies. Here are more ideas for similar email subjects:

  • Back-to-School Checklist: √ Backpacks √ Supplies √ POINTS (ShopYourWay)
  • Ready for school? Get your essentials today 📚✏️ (Pottery Barn Kids)
  • Still short on school supplies? ✏️ Get ready with these classroom classics! (Smiggle)

Fashion

If you’re promoting an apparel business, you have many opportunities for boosting sales at the end of summer. The choice of an email subject depends on your audience. Moms looking for a new uniform for their kid and college students who want a trendier look this autumn need different approaches. Let’s take a look at these two examples.

From: Converse

Subject: Rare finds for kids’ back-to-school styling

Back-to-school email from Converse
Source: MailCharts

This special offer email from Converse targets parents who consider getting a new drip for their middle-schoolers. But what if you want to appeal to a larger audience?

From: Rack Room Shoes

Subject: Most-wanted sandals for Back to School

Back-to-school email from Rack Room Shoes
Source: MailCharts

This email from Rack Room Shoes offers a fresh start to anyone — the subject line doesn’t target a specific group of people. If your business is not specializing in kids’ clothes, that’s the way to go. Take a look at more fashion-themed subject line examples:

  • A+ Style for Back to School (Blowfish Shoes)
  • Polos: Your Back-2-School Solution (Big Dogs)
  • Back to School Outfit ✔️: do your kids have this? (The Children’s Place US)
  • Our A to Z of back-to-school looks (Stella McCartney Online)

For teachers

Teachers are a more niche customer group for back-to-school emails — but they need to get ready too. 

From: US Toy

Subject: Fill your classroom with tools that inspire curiosity!

Back-to-school email from US Toy
Source: Email Competitors

Keep in mind that teachers are a broad group — and each niche has their own needs. For example, this email from US Toys targets specifically kindergarten teachers. Here are more ideas for subject lines that target school employees:

  • Foster Creativity in Your Classroom with Knop Knop! (US Toy)
  • {Name}, Get Classroom-Ready for Less! (Dollar Tree)
  • Don’t let back-to-college stress you out. (Hayneedle)

Tips and best practices to keep in mind

Why do these subject lines we’ve mentioned work? They use certain tips and tricks — read this short guide and learn how to make your back-to-school subject line effective.

Start your campaign in advance

The Deloitte study showed that this year, 53% of back-to-school season spendings were expected to occur by the end of July — the main reason is that people are afraid of stockouts. But even if you didn’t start your campaign in the middle of summer, you still have a chance.

There is a certain category of back-to-school shoppers — procrastinators. For example, if your campaign is based on scarcity and last-minute offers, starting in August would be the best strategy. We’ve mentioned that many times: there’s no universal success recipe.

Keep it short

According to the 2021 report, 42.4% of emails are opened on mobile devices. Desktop interfaces already don’t give a lot of room for subject lines — and mobile apps cut them even more. That’s why, when it comes to email subjects, keeping it short is the way to go.

The Marketo study showed that the best-performing email subject length is 7 words, which is approximately 41 characters. At the same time, your subject line should be long enough to reveal the value of your email. That’s why exactly 7 words are not the ultimate rule — but we still suggest not exceeding 60 characters. 

Use emojis

The study by Search Engine Journal showed that emojis in subject lines don’t affect open rates — but they increase CTR up to 64%. However, according to Campaign Monitor, an email that features emojis is 56% more likely to be opened.

In the end, both studies show that emojis in emails increase your campaign’s efficiency. But use them only if your brand’s tone of voice allows this. And if it does, don’t overuse them, think of your target audience and A/B test your ideas.

Know your target audience

An effective subject line suggests a valuable solution to your customers’ problem right away. But different customers have different pain points. That’s why it’s important to know who you’re targeting, what these people’s frustrations are, and how your offer can resolve them. 

Which groups of people are interested in back-to-school campaigns? Parents, students, and teachers. Here’s an example of possible pain points and good subject lines for different customer groups:

Customer group 🧑 Pain points😭 Subject line inspo📝
Parents Forgetting to get something for their child

No time for shopping

Pricing

✅ Get everything at once and save 50% off school supplies

Coming back-to-school? We’ve got you covered!

Students Peer validation

Looking for a fresh start as a “ritual”

Saving money (college students)

Back-to-Cool 😎

For the coolest kids on the block

30% off our new drop for a fresh start this school year

Teachers Getting back to stressful work after a long vacation You’re ready for school, what about your classroom?

Best dresses for the strictest school dress codes

No worries with our exclusive discounts for teachers

Keep in mind that this spreadsheet is only an example. There are more possible pain points, and parents, students, and teachers vary a lot in demographics and other characteristics. The secret of success is knowing the exact profile of your customer — and hitting where it hurts.

Make sure your subject line is attention-grabbing

As we mentioned earlier, you compete with fellow players on the market and the entire inbox of subject lines, personal or promotional. That’s why it’s so important to grab your customer’s attention right away with a catchy subject line. Here are some tricks that will help you get noticed:

  • Personalize. Emails with personalized subject lines have a higher click-through rate. Just adding your customer’s name will make you more noticeable in the inbox.
  • Use humor. If your tone of voice allows it, puns and jokes are a good way to grab attention.
  • Relate to customers. The back-to-school season is stressful — regardless of your audience, all the customer groups we’ve mentioned before have their pain points and frustration. Relating to these struggles will make your marketing email appear more human and stimulate subscribers to open it. Use subject lines like “Scared to go back-to-school? Me too” or “Back-to-School deals for Tired Moms” — and your customers will fall for that compassion.
  • Be intriguing. Don’t reveal the entire email content in a subject line. Instead, keep your customers enticed to know more. The easiest way to do it is turning a subject line into a question — and hide the answer in the email.

These are the most popular tactics to increase your email visibility. But we know nothing about your business and your target audience. That’s why we suggest testing these tips out to see what works for you.

Use the sense of urgency

If you know how to write a sales email, you’ve heard a thing or two about urgency in email marketing. We already mentioned that the back-to-school season is stressful. That’s why using urgent language in your subject line might work especially well for your back-to-school email campaign. Here are some tips to get your customers to the edge of their seats:

  • Setting a deadline — “Ends today”, “Expires tomorrow”
  • Using active verbs — “Hurry up”, “Act now”
  • Adding scarcity — “Limited offer”, “Buy before the stockout”

From: ClothingUnder10

Subject: 🚨Hurry up… Back to School 📚 Deals Ends Soon ⏰ Save 20% OFF Sitewide 😱

Back-to-school sales email from ClothingUnder10
Source: MailCharts

This email from ClothingUnder10 is a great example of using urgency in subject lines. They used a lot of urgency markers and added emojis to intensify the effect. This email subject is almost anxiety-inducing. We don’t approve of using emojis after every word — but you still can use this example as a reference.

Wrapping up

Subject lines are important in email campaigns because they allow you to stand out and increase your campaign’s visibility. The choice of back-to-school subject lines heavily depends on:

  • Your target audience — parents, teachers or students.
  • The type of email you’re sending — newsletters and special offers will have different email subjects.
  • Your industry — use different tactics to promote different items.

But regardless of your campaign, here are best practices to help you come out with an email subject that begs to be clicked on:

  • Start your campaign early — mid-July is preferable but August yields great results too.
  • Keep it short — many people read emails on mobile devices.
  • Use emojis — they’ll make your email subject more noticeable.
  • Know your target audience — and hit them where it hurts.
  • Use the sense of urgency — especially in sales emails.

Do you miss school or college years? If yes, why?

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