Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Mother’s Day – these are just a few of the holidays the retail industry circles on the calendar every year for increased sales opportunities. The back-to-school season represents just as much opportunity, but it is a little more elusive when it comes to timing and target audience. When does “Back to School” actually start? I don’t sell clothes or school supplies, so how do I market during this time? We’ve got answers to those questions and more in our DEG Guide to Back to School (or BTS, because acronyms are fun).

When Does BTS Actually Start?

Some stores start putting out the backpack displays even before Fourth of July, but a report from Experian Marketing Services shows that the bulk of BTS email volume comes in August, specifically the first half. That doesn’t mean you should stop your BTS thinking after August 15 – just like with Christmas, there are bound to be last-minute shoppers, or those going back for second, third, or fourth trips to pick up missed items. You can always mix back to school and fall themes, like in this Hallmark Baby email.

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BTS is Not Just About Clothes and School Supplies

Regardless of your customer demographic, BTS is probably on their minds in some way, shape, or form. Recognize that, and find a way to make back to school relevant for your business. For example, I don’t automatically think “Dean & Deluca” for back to school, but they make their product relevant for the season by tying it into care packages.

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More Than Promos – Offer Content

Back to school can represent a lot of “firsts” as kids (and parents!) start new chapters in their lives. Capitalize on this by offering support with helpful content, tips, and tricks to help customers associate that expertise with your brand. At Home does a good job of this in its “Dorm Decor and More” email that groups together bedding, accessories, and desk furniture to offer customers ideas for a complete room look.

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Use BTS as a Trial Run for Holiday Tactics

This is one of your last chances to test promotions, try new platform integrations, and explore cross-channel promotional opportunities. Here are a few quick tips and ideas to try for your holiday prep:

  • Integrate social – Facebook contests, themed Pinterest boards, and Instagram shout-outs are perfect for the BTS crowd and will also give you good insights for the holiday season.
  • Ask for product reviews – proud parents make great reviewers, and this will help build a library of “customer favorites” for holiday gift guides.
  • Test subject lines (if you’re not already) – incorporating the offer vs. mystery savings, free shipping mentions, even keywords like “style” or “gift,” which can move the needle on open rates and conversions for any shopping season.

Whether your customers are gearing up for their kids’ first day of preschool, college freshman orientation, or nothing in between, back to school season represents a great opportunity to drive sales, build brand awareness, and expertise, all while getting ready for the busy holiday season ahead.

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