Back to School Marketing

It’s the time of the season again when students get ready for yet another school year. Meanwhile, retailers are working hard to embrace the opportunity for a spike in back-to-school sales.

Undoubtedly, this back-to-school season will be more exciting than usual considering the global pandemic that led to shutdowns and irregular school schedules in the last few years.  

The upcoming season begs the question: How can retailers optimize their back-to-school marketing efforts and when should they start their marketing campaigns? To help, we’ve created a back-to-school guide with some actionable tips on how to market your campaigns, which trends to jump on, and how you can ultimately increase revenue. 

When do back-to-school promotions start?

In 2024, With school start times varying from late August to early September, back-to-school promotions don’t begin on a particular date. Sales begin anywhere from mid- to late July, continue through August, and end in mid-September. 

Big brands like Apple start their back-to-school campaigns early. Taking a note from their playbook, it’s never too early to start planning for a season that comes around once a year. Depending on your supply chain, business processes, and capacity, it’s good practice to start preparing for the back-to-school season a few months in anticipation. 

Back-to-school marketing trends

  • A return to in-person learning
  • Economic uncertainty
  • Omnichannel shoppers
  • Supply chain disruptions

This year, a few trends have taken center stage, which will influence back-to-school efforts from everyone involved. Here’s a look at some of the biggest back-to-school trends to keep in mind. 

With the return to in-person learning trends, students will want to return to school with a bang. A survey from the National Retail Federation uncovered one-third of consumers, about 38%, are cutting back spending in other areas to focus on back-to-school purchases. 

The survey also shines a light on some telling stats:

Families plan on spending an average of about $864 on back-to-school expenses.

Families with college students plan on spending an average of about $1,199.

By preparing your shop with in-person and online back-to-school promotions, you position your business to capture more than $37 billion in expected back-to-school spending. 

Back-to-school marketing ideas

Consider a few back-to-school marketing ideas to ensure your customers know of any special deals and promotions long before the school year begins. 

1. Host a giveaway

Hosting a giveaway is another way to create excitement among your customers. A giveaway is a win-win situation for both parents and retailers. You get a chance to spread the word about your BTS deals and parents get a chance to win some BTS supplies. 

Successful retail giveaways can be done with the help of social media. The key is to create a contest compelling enough that it gets plenty of submissions and sales in the process. 

2. Use social media to create engagement

Parents are hanging out and socializing with other parents on social media. What better place to engage them with your best offers? 

Consider posting long before the school year starts about special deals or bundles they can purchase ahead of time. Learning to implement social media tactics can help increase sales. 

3. Offer future-use coupons

Offer discount coupons your customers can use for future school purchases. These coupons can be a helpful way to increase repeat sales, even after the back-to-school sales are over. It’s a good idea to learn the specifics of retention strategies to increase revenue. 

4. Organize a photo or video contest

Make your BTS campaign fun by hosting a photo or video contest. You can ask customers to post a photo or video on a particular back-to-school theme on their social media profile, tagging your account. Later, give a special award to the winner with the most likes and comments.

Read more about the 14 essential giveaways and contest ideas retailers can use to boost traffic and engagement. 

5. Launch a BTS loyalty program

Launching a customer loyalty program brings in repeat sales as well as new customers. You can offer different incentives and discounts as part of a customer loyalty program to increase customer satisfaction. Consider leveraging gift cards to start and grow a loyalty program.

6. Partner with a local organization

Shoppers generally want to show support for their local community. By partnering with a local organization by either sponsoring them or funding a local back-to-school initiative, you can increase awareness of your back-to-school promotions and ensure parents know of your deals. 

7. Offer BTS kits

Back-to-school kits are convenient and appealing to buyers looking to save money. 

You can package different items together and give special discounts on different back-to-school combinations. Consider bundling two of your most popular BTS items. Creatively bundling packages ensures you move inventory, increase basket size, and increase revenue. 

8. Run a last chance sale

Last chance sales can be an effective way to attract attention to any leftover inventory you want to move from your shelves. It also creates a sense of urgency amongst customers, since they might want to take advantage of those last-minute deals. 

9. Sponsor an in-school retail event

Partner with a local school and sponsor an in-school event with them. Checkout the complete guide of retail events where you can draw from several examples. 

Back to School Email Newsletters

Along with Black Friday and the beloved Winter holiday, Christmas, the back-to-school campaign is one of the most significant retail shopping events in the email marketing calendar.

All sorts of businesses capitalize on back-to-school emails, not only the traditional sector of retailers that offer school supplies and dorm room accessories. For example, electronic stores are one of those that use these newsletters to generate sales since the ne generation needs not only a pencil and notebook but also cool gadgets. Besides, clothing retailers, furniture shops, and even SaaS websites that provide digital products easily reap benefits from them.

Segmentation is crucial for every marketing strategy; back-to-school newsletters are no exception. To define segments accurately, you need to understand the target audience.

Back-to-school emails come into two categories: informational and promotional. Teachers and brands that are outside of the education sector use the first one, whereas entrepreneurs use the latter.

Much like other types of email newsletters (transactional emails, onboarding emails, welcome emails, and e-commerce emails), these types are not mutually exclusive. Quite often, back-to-school newsletters include informative copy and shopping incentives. This area is multifaceted.

Best Time to Send Back-to-School Newsletters

As a rule, back-to-school email campaigns launch in mid-August since as students prepare to hit the schools, universities, and colleges. However, you should not wait until all brands start to bombard subscribers with sales pitches. If your business is in the education sector, then it is better to send the first email newsletter much earlier to get a head start and catch earlier buyers.

Back to school subject line ideas

You have campaign ideas, but before you press send on your back to school email, make sure you put thought into your subject line. Because if you can’t capture your audience’s attention in the inbox, you’re never going to get them to open your emails. Here are 5 subject line ideas to get you started:
  • Your back to school essentials
  • Back to school, solved.
  • New! Just in time for back to school
  • Are you ready for back to school?
  • Stock up for back to school

Just remember that you should put your offer front and center! So whether you’re launching a brand new product or running a sitewide sale, make sure you’re not burying the lede with your subject line. Find a way to weave in your offer and you’re sure to get your audience excited enough to open your email and bring in sales.

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