Back-to-school shopping is second only to holiday shopping for many retailers, with spending estimated to hit $849 per household in 2021 just for K-12 school supplies, apparel, electronics and accessories.

Big-name companies like Bed Bath & Beyond and Office Depot have been sending back-to-school/back-to-college campaigns practically since school doors closed for the summer. But there is still time to get in on the action with a well-designed email campaign.

Keep these three pointers in mind as you plan your back-to-school/back-to-college marketing strategy:

    • Start Now – The tardy bell is about to ring, start planning your campaigns if you haven’t already.  Although school start dates very across the country, most schools aren’t beginning until end of August/beginning of September.
    • Relatable Messaging – You can’t just erase “2019” and write in “2021” on your plan. Rising COVID-19 infection rates are bringing uncertainty back into school planning. Your strategy and campaigns should reflect this uncertainty to some extent.  Create messaging that conveys at home and in person learning.
    • Keep Your Email DB Clean – Before launching a major new campaign, check to make sure your lists are ready for sending through your email validation process.


News about Back to School 2021

School/college spending will rise: Two leading consumer surveys indicate people will spend more in 2021, especially on clothing, footwear and electronics. The National Retail Federation predicts K-12 shoppers will spend $37.1 billion, up 9.4% from 2020 and a survey record high. College-bound shoppers will spend $71 billion, up nearly 5% from 2020.

Shopping habits reflect pandemic changes: 40% of K-12 parents said in a Deloitte survey say they will spend more in 2021 while 34% said they plan to skip the in-store crowds battling over color-coordinated notebooks and folders, opting instead to buy online for home delivery or in-store/curbside pickup.


3 reasons to send a back-to-school campaign

You probably have back-to-school merch in your inventory right now. And it doesn’t have to be backpacks, blunt-edge scissors or 6-packs of glue sticks. What do you sell that a time-pressed school shopper could use?

As a home-supply store, Lowe’s probably isn’t a destination store for back-to-school shoppers. But the company jumped on the bandwagon in July with an email campaign that promoted dorm-friendly merchandise like storage bins, lamps, small-scale furniture and moving supplies.

Shoppers with school-age kids are in stores now. Back-to-school shoppers start looking for deals in the summer and rev it up as soon as the school supply lists are available.

Deloitte predicts early birds will have spent about $9 billion by the end of July, but there’s still plenty of shopping for those who wait until August through mid-September.

Back-to-school can detect list health challenges.  The pandemic wrought havoc with email databases. We, at FreshAddress, saw a major uptick in bad addresses and list attrition in 2020. A back-to-school campaign can reveal list-health issues that need to be fixed before the stress of Q4 and holiday shopping strategies roll out.

Are you ready to send?

Before you launch any major new initiative, you should make sure your email database is ready to handle the change:

    • Can you validate new addresses before they go into your database? This includes any data collection/opt-in point, whether on your website, in physical locations, or from any other sources. Real-time email validation lets customers correct errors right away so you can add more motivated subscribers.
    • Are your suppression files up to date and secured?  This is important for all departments sending emails to prospects or customers.
    • What is your process for updating email addresses? Email Change of Address allows you to update out-of-date addresses of customers who have never unsubscribed. Also, check to be sure your customer service or call-center staff are updating addresses as part of their standard customer contact.


Next up: Creating attention-getting back-to-school campaigns

In the second post of our blog series, “6 tactics for better back-to-school campaigns,” we’ll share tactics for back-to-school campaigns that stand out in the inbox and drive value for your customers. Stay tuned!

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