Don’t Miss The Bus! Start Your Back-to-School Campaign Planning

June 19, 2018 Liz Mclemore

Long before the kids are ready to return to school, retailers – and parents – are excited about the beginning of the school year. Similar to the Q4 holiday season, large amounts of money are spent over the course of two to three months on everything from apparel and footwear to school supplies and electronics. Summer can bring a lull in performance for many retailers, but planning for back-to-school shopping can help mitigate any dips. With the right spin, virtually any marketer can take advantage of the back-to-school season.

A few observations from Cheetah Digital’s 2017 back-to-school data:

  • Peak back-to-school email volume occurred in July and August (27% and 71%, respectively)
  • Top clicked products in July were kids clothing and backpacks
  • Girls’ clothing received the most clicks – 24% more than boys’
  • Laptops, room décor, and shoes generated the bulk of clicks in August
  • Back-to-school mailings in early September did quite well – the average unique click rate was 16% higher than the all industry benchmark that month (1.8% vs. 1.5%, respectively)

We encourage marketers in different industries to take advantage of observances, holidays, and seasons while remaining true to their brand. The common adage, timing is everything, certainly fits here. For example, travel brands should consider sending campaigns after spring break, focused on parents who want to get an early start on planning summer travel, and young adults looking for inexpensive getaways. Let your sales and email engagement data dictate the launch timing of your campaigns. Last minute travel deals may also appeal as early as June or July, especially for those who are planning for a long getaway on Labor Day weekend. Encourage impulse buying with countdown timers and limited time flash sales.

If you’re a retailer who sends back-to-school campaigns annually – or if you haven’t, but are now inspired – think of this season as a test run for Q4. Consider that small children are often the main focus of back-to-school, but don’t forget high schoolers and college-bound kids. They’ve got needs from laptops to dorm room décor. Gift cards are also ideal for the college group, as this may be the first time they are far from the luxury of having a parent run errands on their behalf.

Replenishment campaigns can also be effective. Students often need everything from more school supplies to new clothes, as they outgrow the old ones. Consider deploying these in the early spring, rather than running into the busy holiday season. Again, let your data do the heavy lifting of determining the best timing post-sale to send this type of email. Your customers’ previous actions can be a pretty reliable predictor of future behavior.

This is also a great time to launch the poll or survey you’ve been considering. Imagine being able to append demographic information about a parent with multiple children of different ages over the course of time, and personalizing content based on that data. If you send an email asking “what products / categories are you most interested in?” it will be easy to gather the click information and use it to personalize follow-up communication. Email is just the entry point. Make sure you have tested and optimized the shopping experience across desktop, mobile sites and apps. No one needs easy conversion like a busy parent.

Ultimately, back-to-school is a time for everyone to be ready to learn, including marketers.

About the Author

Liz Mclemore

Liz McLemore is a Senior Strategist, Marketing Consulting at Cheetah Digital. She is a cross-channel marketing professional with nearly twenty years of experience in the fields of marketing, software development and technology. In her current role, Liz provides strategic program recommendations and actionable industry trends to several industry-leading brands. As a public speaker, Liz has represented Cheetah Digital across the country, providing expertise, insights and best practices in digital marketing. She began her career with the company ten years ago in Client Services, with clients spanning a variety of verticals including publishing, media, consumer products and services, travel and accessories and apparel.

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