This post was originally published in 2019. We’ve updated it with fresh examples and added a new section discussing back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Retailers and E-commerce businesses await the Back to school shopping season with excitement, and for good reason.
According to the National Retail Federation, Back to School and Back to College spending for 2019 are expected to exceed 80 Billion Dollars in the US.
We made a step-by-step guide on how to create a successful back to school email marketing campaign even if you do not sell the usual top of mind products for back to school shopping.
We will provide back to school email ideas, email templates, and email copy that will help you make your back to school marketing campaign a smashing success.
Back to School During Covid-19
According to the National Retail Federation, back to school spending this year is expected to hit record levels, with families planning to buy more school supplies and computers in an attempt to prepare for a potential home-schooling situation.
Record-Breaking: Planned spending budgets for elementary to high school students in 2020
Families with children going to elementary and high schools are planning to spend over $789 on school supplies, compared to $696.70 in 2019.
This takes the total average spending for elementary to high school students to $33.9 billion, compared to $26.2 billion, breaking the all-time back to school spending budget record.
Record-Breaking: Planned spending budgets for college students in 2020
College students are planning to spend over $1,059 on back to college supplies, compared to last year’s record of $976.78.
This takes the total average spending for college students to $67.7 billion, compared to $54.5 billion in 2019, also breaking the all-time back to college spending budget record.
Which takes the total back to school and back to college planned budgets up to a record of $101.6 billion.
Back to school shopping is delayed in 2020
We are living in a time of uncertainty. Students across the globe don’t know when or if they will be going back to school this year.
In the United States, school districts and universities are still debating whether or not to welcome students back to traditional classrooms this fall.
This is mainly the reason why parents and college students have only finished 17% of their shopping list, which means that your back to school campaign for 2020 can start a little later. Usually, by the end of August, back to school shopping has already started wrapping up.
You can start your back to school email campaign late this year (mid-august until late september).
But this year, 54% of parents and students don’t know what they need to buy (only 10% have received the lists of required school supplies).
For email marketers who are still debating whether or not to send a back to school campaign this year, you still have the time to make it. It is especially interesting for e-commerce stores and retailers who have a working online website and shipment options.
Focus on online shopping for back to school this year
In the spirit of social distancing, this year’s back to school shopping will be mainly online. 88% of consumers believe that their shopping habits will be affected this year, with 43% planning to shop online for school supplies.
Brick and mortar retailer stores, department stores, discount stores, clothing stores, and office supplies stores are expected to welcome fewer customers compared to last year.
Promote your online stores. Offer free shipping and free returns.
Don’t forget to double down on your customer support efforts during this time.
Electronics & office furniture are expected to sell more
Because of the risk of at-home-schooling, 72% of parents are expecting they’ll need computers, desks, monitors, headphones, chairs, printers, and other supplies that will accommodate them.
60% of college students are planning to buy electronics, compared to 53% last year.
Clothing shopping is expected to drop
Since consumers are predicting that e-learning will take over this year, they are not planning to spend as much on clothing ($234.48 compared to $239.82 in 2019).
Pens, pencils, and other school supplies shopping is expected to slightly increase
School supplies such as pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, highlighters, and others are expected to slightly increase in revenue from $117.49 last year to $131.37 in 2020.
Back to school email 2020 examples
In this section, we will provide you with examples from real email campaigns being sent right now! We’ve divided them by theme, to help you find the perfect message that suits your products and brand.
Promoting home office furniture
Email subject line: 📚 Your All-In-One Guide for Back to School Essentials at Home
Promoting online shipping events
Email Subject Line: 20% OFF – Kid’s Sleep Better Cool ❄️✏️
Selling Masks and immunity boosters
Subject Line: SAVE 15% on Immunity-boosters and Protective products 💪
Subjet line: 👏 On hand. For hands. Only $1.66.
Selling comfy clothes
Subject Line: Back to School & Comfy Cool
Use general learning vocabulary
Since many of your consumers are opting for e-learning and homeschooling, make sure to use terms related to learning in general, instead of specifying: Back to school.
Subject Line: Returning To Learning! 🔔 25% Off* Entire Site! 🔔
Tips for Successful Back to School Email Campaigns
Back to school email marketing shouldn’t be different from any other email campaign you are preparing.
Here are some tips to guide your upcoming back to school email campaign in 2020:
Write a Catchy Email Subject Line for Back To School
During the back to school season, your target segment members will probably receive hundreds of back to school emails. Retailers are fighting to get the attention of their subscribers.
You need to stand out from the crowd with your email. The first step to do that is to come up with a creative back to school email subject line.
Email Subject Lines affect open rates, so make sure to include the words “Back to school” in your email subject line.
In fact, studies show that the highest-converting email subject lines included words related to “back to school”.
We have gathered a list of email subject line examples that you can use for your next back to school email campaign (the first 5 are the best performing back to school email subject lines, according to a research conducted by Omnisend)
- “BACK TO SCHOOL! Come join the FUN! 🎒”
- “OH DEER POP UP SUPER SALE! Back to school Shopping!”
- “$5 Back to School Deal ✏️”
- “Back to School never looked so good! Specials all week!”
- “30% OFF BACK TO SCHOOL SALE 🏃”
- “Still short on school supplies?”
- “Saved by the 🔔 Get huge back-to-school deals today!”
- “40% OFF Everything! Stock up on back to school basics!”
- “HUGE Back to School Bedding SALE – Today Only!”
- “📝 Back to School Sale: Up to 50% Off Footwear →”
- 🍎 Back to (Nutrition) School: Thought For Food 📖
Make a Beautiful Back To School Email Design
Once you get your subscribers to open your email, your next objective is to get them to click through to your landing page.
This depends largely on email design.
Here are some elements that you should consider when building your back to school email design:
Following the inverted pyramid structure will never fail you. Here’s how it goes:
- Start with the most important information that will catch the attention of your readers right away: BIG & BOLD BACK TO SCHOOL EMAIL HEADLINE
- Give more details about the headline as you go through the email layout, and make the elements under the main headline smaller.
- Include a hero image that highlights your product.
- Each section of your email should end with some sort of CTA button ( visually distinguishable ) that will guide your customers to the next step.
- Repeat the steps above until you are satisfied, but make sure not to over-stuff the email.
Email Color Scheme
The best color palette you can opt for is your brand colors. This helps with brand recognition and keeps your communication material coherent across all emails and other digital channels.
This also goes for the fonts used in the email. There are tools online that can help you determine which fonts go well with your brand font.
Here’s a breakdown of a good back to school email design:
If you want to stand out from the crowd and spice up your back to school email template, you can include animation.
This can be a video or a simple GIF.
Email Rendering and Compatibility
When sending out your back to school email blasts, the last thing you need is having to deal with technical issues related to compatibility and email rendering.
Your back to school marketing emails should look professionally designed and on-brand, but most importantly, they should look the same on every device and mobile client.
Here’s a breakdown of what you need to consider when it comes to your back to school email design:
- How will your back to school email look like on all versions of Android, iOS, and Desktop?
- How will your email look like in different email clients (Gmail, all versions of Outlook, Yahoo!Mail, etc.)?
These questions can be a bit tricky to answer if you are not an email designer, and have limited knowledge of HTML email coding.
Your best option, in this case, is to use a responsive email builder. You can find back to school email templates and promotional email templates, ready to use, and you don’t need to worry about the HTML code or how it will look on different devices.
Include a Compelling & Effective Call to action
The call to action in your back to school email campaigns should be highlighted.
Here are some useful tips to keep in mind when coming up with a back to school call to action:
- Give emphasis to the call to action button visually, using bold colors and a bigger size.
- Focus on the benefit that will occur if your subscriber clicks on the CTA button, For example, you can say “ Shop All Deals”- which implies that you will get to enjoy all the deals mentioned in the email if you just click on that CTA button, instead of simply saying “ Shop”.
Back to school subject line: ⭐ Score our BIGGEST BACK-TO-SCHOOL DEALS! Up to 60% OFF today only!
This back to school email from Pottery Barn Kids is a great example of well-written calls to action:
- 25-60% Off Backpacks
- 25-60% Off Lunch Boxes
- 25-40% Off Food Storage & Water Bottles…
Each CTA reminds the reader of the amazing deal they can get, simply by clicking the button.
You can learn more about how to write a compelling call to action for your back to school marketing emails here.
Add a Sense of Urgency to Your Back to School Email
During the busy shopping season, your subscribers might forget about your offer. That’s why it helps to create a sense of urgency around your deals.
Telling your customers that your discounts and promotional coupons will expire quickly will make them want to shop from your store as soon as possible.
Creating urgency for your offer can be done using 2 techniques:
- Back to school Email Copy: email copy is one of the most powerful tools to use to influence your customers’ thoughts and emotions. If you want to create urgency surrounding your offer, make sure to give the impression, through your email copy, that your offer is ending soon, and that if they don’t take it now, they will miss out.
In your Back to school headlines, use words like exclusive, limited, Available only until [date], etc. These terms will push subscribers to act promptly, decisively, and without delay.
Back to school email subject line: Back-to-School Sale | Save up to $20
In this back to school email example, the first thing you see and read is “TODAY ONLY”, making the offer included in the newsletter very exclusive and urgent. This captures your subscribers’ attention and makes them think twice before heading towards that close button.
- Include a countdown timer in your back to school emails: Email Countdown timers are a great way to leverage your email design and make it more eye-catching and memorable. Countdown clocks in emails are also perfect to let your subscribers know that your back to school offer is temporary and that they should grab it soon.
Target Different Audience Segments
In email marketing, it’s important to segment your email list and customize your email campaign according to the specific characteristics of each email segment.
This way, you present each audience segment with valuable information that resonates with them. Targeting specific segments will also affect your offer, email copy, email design, and even sending time.
When it comes to back to school email campaigns, you have three main audience segments to target: students, college students, and parents.
Brands acknowledge the influence children have on the parents’ decision making.
A study shows that in the US, parents of 13-year-old kids or younger tend to feel more pressured to purchase whatever their kids suggest.
As they get older, children’s inputs are more valuable to their parents.
This is undoubtable evidence that sending back to school emails directly to your younger subscribers- even if they cannot pay for your product, is beneficial for your sales.
However, this needs to be applied with caution. There are several laws related to marketing and email marketing to minors that you need to look out for before deciding to target your younger audience.
Let’s not forget that back to school season also includes college students, who mainly want to shop for clothes, electronics, and new dorm room furniture.
Back to college subject line: Back-to-school styles to opt for
This email from H&M is a great example of what to include in a back to college email. The email copy is fun and playful, right for young college freshmen. Using words like semester, dorm, campus… makes the reader instantly relate to the content and want to know more.
Parents get ready for back to school season just like their children.
You can send emails to parents helping them get ready for the start of the academic year, not only by purchasing obvious back to school products for their K-12 Grade Kids (backpacks, school supplies, first day of school outfits, etc.) but also by purchasing products for working mothers and fathers.
Email subject line: Parents Rejoice — The Kids Are Back In School
Combine Back to School Email with other Holidays
If you are running late for your back to school email campaign, or simply want to send a reminder email to the late shoppers, you still have time. Even in late August and early September, back to school shopping is not over yet. In fact, studies show that by the end of August, American families have only completed less than 45% of their intended back to school shopping.
You can use your weekly newsletter to remind your subscribers that your back to school promotions are still available, or combine holiday emails with back to school emails.
Back to school Labor Day Email Subject Line: Up to 75% off clearance + 50% off select back-to-school
Here’s an example of an email sent by Hannah Andersson combining labor day and back to school sales. The colors in the email (US Red and Blue) refer to labor day celebrations and the back to school mentioned in the subject line result in a balanced and convincing email design and copy.
Back to school email campaigns should be part of a holistic digital marketing strategy, where you manage different digital channels in a coherent way and engage with your audience on various levels.
Staples Back to School Campaign 2018
Communicating your back to school offer via email, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter establish strong brand recognition in your followers’ minds.
A great way to combine email marketing and social media for your back to school campaign is to run a contest for your subscribers with the chance of winning a free product, a coupon or a gift certificate…
You can learn how to integrate email and social media to amplify your marketing efforts and gain leverage here.
Send out Back To School Emails- No Matter What Your Product Is
Even if you are not selling the typical top of mind school products, you can still benefit from the whole back to school shopping surge.
You just need to be a little creative and find a way to link your brand with the back to school season.
Here’s an example from the coffee machine company Keurig who utilized the back to school season to re-engage with their audience and promote their affordable products.
Email Subject Line: Go Back to School with Big Savings on Our Slimmest Brewer Yet!
Here’s another example of pure creativity and goofiness. PetSmart knew how to take advantage of the back to school season to get closer to their customers, provide valuable and relevant advice, and promote their products and services in a cleaver manner.
You can do the same for your customers, even if, on the surface, your product is not related to the back to school fuss. All you need to understand your customers’ motivations and concerns and send them valuable and relevant information.
Don’t forget that everyone wants to take advantage of the back to school sales and promotions despite not being in school or not having any children. It is simply common sense. So don’t be afraid to experiment and think outside the box.
Types of Emails To Send This Back to School Season + Examples from Real Brands
In this section, we will list different types of back to school emails that you can send out and provide some back to school email template examples.
Most examples concern eCommerce businesses and online retailers, however, we made sure to include other examples for nonprofit back to school email campaigns and a back to school email for a SaaS business.
Back to School Promotional Emails: Discounts, Coupons, Promotional Codes, Deals, etc
The most common back to school emails are promotional emails.
Retailers fight to drive traffic and sales to their stores.
Whether you have an online shop or a good old brick-and-mortar store, you most probably are planning a promotional offer for the back to school shopping season.
But before you do, here’s what you need to do to design a sales promotion campaign for back to school:
- Define your objectives: Like in every project, you need to set SMART objectives and goals that you are planning on accomplishing by the end of the back to school season. A sales promotion should increase your sales and increase your profits, to make the most out of the back to school shopping surge.
- Identify your target audience: Back to school promotional emails are usually targeted towards parents whose motivations are generally financial. During the back to school shopping season, parents are on the lookout for deals, promotions, and discounts.
- Select the promotion: Buy one get one for free, coupons, discounts, giveaways, buy more save more offers, flash sales, etc. These are just some ideas of what you can do for your back to school sales promotion campaigns.
- Define your budget: This is the tricky part where you need to calculate costs, projected paybacks, promotion duration and period and all the other metrics that will determine your flexibility margin.
- Design your back to school promotional email: now comes the fun part. You need to start by writing an email copy that highlights your back to school offer, build responsive back to school email template, schedule your email campaign and collect data to measure the success of your campaign.
Here are some examples of back to school promotional email campaigns:
Email Subject Line: ✏ Back-to-School Sale begins NOW! Get your Deal!
Back to School Coupon Email
Click the image to see the full email.
Back to school Coupon email subject line: Open soon! You’ve earned an EXTRA-EXCLUSIVE promo code!
Back to School Giveaway Email
Including the words “giveaway” or “win” in your back to school email subject line is guaranteed to make your subscribers look twice in their email inboxes.
Plan a giveaway or a back to school contest to connect with current customers and reengage irregulars and lost shoppers.
Send out an email stating the rules to enter the giveaway.
Giveaways are also a great way to create a buzz on social media.
Back to school Giveaway email subject line: August awaits with a $500 Back-to-School IG Giveaway
Useful Tips For Back To School Email
If you cannot afford to cut down on margins for the back to school season, yet still want to get in on the action, you can send out back to school themed email, providing your audience tips and tricks to help them get ready for the start of the academic year.
Here are a couple of examples of back to school emails that, instead of blasting a discount code or a free coupon, give valuable and relevant information to the reader.
Back to school email subject line:Rock Your Back-to-School Budget
Email Subject Line: ATTN: Parents, your back to school guide is here.
For this type of email to work, you need to know your audience very well. That way you can send them quality content that truly resonates with them and that they find helpful.
Back to School Event Invitation Email
If you are having a big clearance event in your shop and want to let everyone know, or if you simply want to increase traffic in your store, you can send out an invitation email and later on an event reminder email.
This email example from IKEA shows how they took advantage of the back to college shopping season to drive more sales to their physical stores.
IKEA Back to College Event Invitation Subject Line: Don’t miss the IKEA College Life Your Way Event
If you have an online shop, you can still turn back to school shopping into an event.
Here’s how one online business did that using email.
This type of back to school emails takes more time and planning to send out since it involves people from outside your company.
Basically, you need to contact a number of loyal customers (or just one is enough) and get them to talk about how your product or service helped them during the hectic back to school season, or during the academic year.
Testimonial emails also work great for private universities who are targeting future college students, looking to integrate a new university.
Non profit Emails for Back to School
Back to school is a very busy season for everyone: families, retailers, and even non profit organizations.
In fact, during big shopping seasons such as this, non profit charitable organizations receive more donations.
- Non Profit Email Example #1
Nonprofit Back to school email subject line: Back To School Drive For Foster Children
- Non Profit Email Example #2
Non profit email for back to school subject line: BACK TO SCHOOL!!! Shop Ethical Backpacks, Journals, Crayons & More!
Back to School Email Campaign For SaaS
Who said that only retailers and ecommerce businesses can make profit out of the back to school and back to college season?
Here’s an example of a clever email that Grammarly sent to its subscribers, encouraging them to upgrade their accounts to the premium package in preparation for the new academic year.
With a well targeted back to school email copy and a fun email design, Grammarly hit the nail right on the head.
It’s clear that back to school and back to college season are very profitable for businesses. Whether you are selling school supplies, computers and accessories, dorm furniture and bedding, or non of the above, you can still make a profit and get your piece of the pie.
All you need is a good market segmentation, a relevant back to school email copy and beautiful email design.