Back-to-school is the second largest retail holiday in the U.S, just behind the winter holidays. This year, back-to-school spending is expected to see its second-highest spending level on record! According to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, the total spending for school and college combined is projected to reach $83.6 billion, a more than 10 percent increase from last year’s $75.8 billion.
Why is back-to-school marketing so important?
Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $688 each, for a total of $29.5 billion in back-to-school spending for 2017!
As marketers, I know we all face that fear, especially during retail holiday seasons, where we ask ourselves, “is my email going to stand out against other brands?” With such fierce competition, of course we’re all thinking about this! So how can you implement truly effective email marketing strategies that work?
Put your email to the test
I decided to do some research and signed up for a few different retail email lists to see what they were up to with their back-to-school marketing campaigns. Brands like Oshkosh, Northface, Gap, Nordstrom, Nordstrom Rack, Old Navy, and Target were among them. Heads up -- some brands were a real disappointment, sending only one email within such an opportune timeframe, or sending emails with no recognition of the first day of school approaching. But, there were a handful of brands that offered an excellent experience with thoughtful, useful and eye-catching email campaigns. Keep reading for a few examples, along with my top five email marketing strategies to consider before the first day back!
5 effective email marketing strategies that passed the test
1. Address each customer’s individual needs
Standing out at school is a big deal. Each student is their own individual and has their own unique style. In fact, 59% of shoppers say their child’s preference is a major factor in their purchasing decisions. Your email marketing strategies should follow the same approach; ensure your emails stand out from your competition and reach the needs of each individual.
Gap ran a thoughtful campaign appealing to everyone individually. Whether boy, girl, guy or gal, Gap has you covered. The campaign theme was a winner too: “Back to School. Forward with Confidence”. As a mom, I love the vote of confidence instilled in our kids that this campaign provides.
Source: Gap.com and Gap email
Another brand that also stood out was Old Navy. Their campaign was near and dear to my heart, since it centered around the great savings available on all back-to-school clothing and accessories. “Back to Cool Sale” was the theme, and unlike other brands that only offered a few items on sale, the Old Navy campaign included specials on activewear, uniforms, dresses, jeans, and more. Old Navy knows what I’m looking for as a mom when it comes to back-to-school shopping: a lot of variety and a good sale I can be reminded of in my inbox!
59% of shoppers say their child’s preference is a major factor in their purchase decisions (Source: Old Navy)
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2. Omnichannel your efforts
The end action you desire from your subscribers will vary from email to email. However, regardless of what you want your customers to do, one thing is for certain – every email should include a call to action. I came across two excellent campaigns that encouraged me to download a retailer’s mobile app from the email. Both Northface and Nordstrom Rack offered clear CTAs around their mobile app within their back-to-school email.
Source: Northface email
Gap took the social route by encouraging parents and students to post their favorite school outfits and share the photos across their social networks, and post to the Gap website using hashtag #Gaplove.
3. Stand out in the crowd: be visually appealing
When you create your email, design is key to grabbing your readers’ attention. Make your design attractive, creative, and don’t forget to preview your email across different devices --desktop, mobile, tablet -- to be sure your message can be read loud and clear (and beautifully!)
When you want emails to be visually attractive, the name of the game is user experience @KBWheeler
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When it comes to making your emails visually attractive, the name of the game is user experience. A few important design tips to keep in mind:
- Include large, bold headers where you want to make a statement.
- Use enough white space, it’s a strong part of the design.
- Use bullet points that are meaningful.
- Have a clear call-to-action and make sure it stands out.
- QA the final layout in multiple devices including desktop, smartphones and tablets.
See how Mapp's Customer Engagement Platform can help you to create personalized and engaging messages:
4. Incentivize your offers
Back-to-school can be a very a real financial strain to parents and guardians, so make it easier on them and offer attractive incentives. Every parent loves a great deal! According to RetailMeNot, Inc., 82 percent of parents look for deals when shopping for back-to-school. And speaking of omnichannel efforts (strategy #2), 70 percent of RetailMeNot users are anticipated to look for deals on their mobile device this shopping season.
Looking to engage your customers further and already have a mobile app? Incentivize the download and give shoppers a reason to keep coming back! Nordstrom Rack (example below) caught my attention with their CTA to download their mobile app. Especially the $5 off incentive:
Source: Nordstrom Rack email
Another great way to convert is to send out an abandoned shopping cart email. Sending a reminder of an item left in a cart, or a discount for the product category of interest can generate significantly higher conversion rates, improve customer retention and boost the customer’s long-term value. Don’t forget to add the incentive. Nice work, Oshkosh!
Source: Oshkosh email
5. Dazzle your customers
What is your next step after your customer makes a purchase, either in-store or online? Be sure to guide them through the next step in their journey with your brand and send a follow-up communication. Do they like what they’ve purchased? Customer reviews can be a powerful conversion strategy. If you’re able, incent your customers to write a review about their purchase.
And if you have a customer rewards or loyalty program, why not send a reminder of status or point value after a purchase is made? A great way to let your customers know you appreciate their loyalty!
There goes the bell…have you taken advantage of the back-to-school spotlight?
Hopefully these tips have given you a good foundation for an effective email strategy as we approach the 2017-2018 school year. A well-planned campaign, whether it is for back-to-school, holidays or even your weekly offer, must be engaging and intriguing. Take a step back from your role as a marketer, and think like a consumer when building your campaigns. What would make you take action? What would you like to open in your inbox?