Reflecting on back to school email marketing campaigns

‘Tis the season to be jolly …Marketers who capitalized on the recent back to school shopping season are already singing this tune as holiday 2015 approaches. Brands that made back to school a focus of their email marketing programs were likely very pleased with the results. Noticed how I didn’t say ‘the traditional back to school retailers’ were very pleased? There’s a reason for that.

For the 2015 back to school season, we saw a lot of non-traditional retail brands engaging in back to school promotions. These are smart marketers who realized they had a captivated audience and decided to take advantage of the occasion. For example, Shutterfly produced a back to school campaign in which they promoted personalized back to school items– a personalized notebook, agenda, water bottle, etc.– with students’ photos on them. The campaign proved to be very successful with over a 22% read rate.  Another example came from Aveda. Not only did Aveda land at the top of the class with their creative use of symbols in the subject line, they had great success with their “fall for back to school looks” campaign.  Check out our ebook to learn more.

Another key back to school marketing strategy that stood out were multi-promotional campaigns. Close to 98% of the back to school emails I received engaged in multi-promotional campaigns. What do I mean by this?  For example, Staples sent a back to school campaign in July that featured their daily deals alert.  However, below the fold the campaign also highlighted other offers and promotions including great sales on back to school items.  Check it out here on page 7.  This ‘two for one’ promotion educated me on both the ‘hot’ daily deals offers along with the back to school savings. Since I have an in-home office, I’m constantly purchasing supplies, and while I’m not a part of the official back to school target audience quite yet, I’m often purchasing pens, printer paper, notebooks, etc. Further, the 25% back in rewards promotions was a purchase motivator for me so I could bank points in my Staples Rewards® account.

These campaigns aren't only driving engagement but marketers may also be seeing increased sales as a result of their efforts.

eMarketer forecasts that retail ecommerce sales will rise 14.4% this year, passing $56 billion to represent 16.5% of full year retail ecommerce sales. One observation I’ve made as to what’s driving increasing online spend and how marketers can capitalize on it, is the increased usage of mobile devices. Back in September, when I was waiting in line at Starbucks to order my chai tea, I witnessed a mom ordering a back-pack for her child with her smartphone. Email marketers now have more opportunities to engage subscribers no matter where they are in their day. Creating mobile optimized emails and a seamless mobile shopping experiences is paramount in order for brands to make the most out of their efforts.

So, as you’re in the midst of rolling out your holiday promotions, remember, the back to school 2016 planning is right around the corner. The majority of marketers begin their plans in Q1. And folks, #Q12016 is almost here!