Back-to-School Marketing: 11 Ideas to Score More Engagement and Revenue

back-to-school imagery with a backpack, books, and cellphone
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SMS Marketing
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Jul 23, 2024
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School's (almost) in session. Borrow our notes to ace your back-to-school promotions this year.

It may still be summer, but 25% of shoppers are already gearing up for the fall with school supplies, clothes, and college dorm decor. Between Prime Day, Christmas in July, and other seasonal promotions, retailers are capturing this early demand months before the start of the next school year. 

When should I launch my back-to-school marketing campaign?

That’s a question many marketers are asking themselves, and the answer is, the sooner the better.

Most retailers run back-to-school marketing campaigns in July and August, with some kicking off teasers or sneak peeks in late June and some targeting last-minute shoppers in late August. A report by Capital One Shopping Research shows that most consumers shopping for K-12 supplies shop between late July and early August. They also note that 32% of shoppers use coupons for back-to-school purchases. A recent survey from Deloitte also notes that parents expect to spend 66% of their back-to-school budget before August, up from 59% last year.

We took notes on 11 back-to-school marketing ideas & campaigns brands have used to drive online and in-store revenue.

1. Generate excitement with a sneak peek

A sneak peek email from Erin Condren

Erin Condren, a lifestyle brand known for creating fun and functional organization essentials, sent an email in late June to share a sneak peek at the 2024 collection. Customers could see the collection and start adding items to their shopping list while making note to return on July 9 to move items from their shopping list to their shopping cart.

2. Launch a sitewide back-to-school sale

A back-to-school SMS message from The Happy Planner

The Happy Planner—a brand that makes planners, notebooks, stickers, and other accessories—announced a sitewide sale to help their customers get ready for the year ahead. In addition to the major discount, they also added a bunch of new items to their back-to-school collection. The "buy more, save more" promotion was a great way for their audience of teachers and students to save money while stocking up on essential school supplies.

3. Reward loyalty with bonus points

A back-to-school marketing campaign from Claire's

Claire’s used their back-to-school sale as an opportunity to grow their loyalty program. They offered shoppers 2x the points when getting new back-to-school items. This was a great way to remind customers of the benefits of being a loyal shopper, while also increasing repeat business by shoppers bagging this deal now and coming back later to use their points.

4. Celebrate school spirit

A SMS marketing campaign promoting school spirit from Thread Wallets

Thread Wallets may be all about minimalist carry goods, but they go big on style and design, helping customers show off their school spirit with school color-inspired looks. The brand reinforced the benefits of the slim nature of their wallets by saying they’re perfect for going to class or going to cheer on the home team. School pride and design go hand-in-hand in this back-to-school marketing campaign.

5. Take something off parents’ plates

Kodiak Cakes used SMS to share a back-to-school recipe book

Breakfast brand Kodiak Cakes texted their VIPs with a freebie that’ll make meal planning a breeze once school starts back up and everyone is short on time. This text message isn’t promotional and shared helpful content that busy parents will benefit from. From overnight oats for breakfast to grab-and-go bento box lunches, these recipes are great for kiddos on the go and provide an opportunity for family bonding as they follow the recipes in Kodiak Cakes’ book.

6. Improve your customers’ daily routines

A back-to-school email campaign from OLLY

In August, towards the end of the summer, gummy vitamin and supplement brand OLLY promoted their range of kids' gummies as a helpful tool for parents to ease the transition from summer to school routines. The brand’s creative copy and imagery focused on engaging the parents in their audience, highlighting how their products could help keep their kids ‌healthy and energized throughout the school day.

This email showed off a variety of offerings for kids so parents could choose the right ones for their families, and then OLLY could follow up in a month or two with reminders to reorder or share related products parents might want to check out.

7. Personalize the shopping experience

An SMS marketing campaign from Hot Topic asking subscribers what they're shopping for

Hot Topic made back-to-school shopping easier by directly asking customers what they were shopping for. Based on their responses, the brand sent subscribers directly to the relevant category page on their website to shop. Hot Topic also saved these answers as custom attributes to personalize future promotions based on subscribers’ interests.

8. Encourage tax-free back-to-school shopping

Stocking up on school supplies can get expensive, which is why some states, like Texas, have a back-to-school sales tax holiday. Clothing, footwear, backpacks, notebooks, pencils, and other items are all tax-free for a period of time. To help parents, teachers, and students save on new shoes for the year, Shoe Carnival—an American family footwear retailer—used geo-targeting to remind customers in those states to take advantage of the tax break.

9. Make stocking up on essentials easy and affordable

Whether packing snacks for school or as an after-school treat, Bobo’s offered a great BOGO 50% off deal to help parents stock up on healthy snacks for the little ones while increasing average order value. The steep discount offered customers an opportunity to snag their favorites or try new flavors.

10. Stack the savings

A text message from CASETiFY UK for back-to-school time

Protective phone cases brand CASETiFY helped students protect their phones with a BOGO offer that stacked savings when customers bought more. This promotion was ideal for families with multiple children returning to school, as well as families with kids who enjoy switching up their phone cases to reflect their personal style.

11. Engage customers in and out of the classroom

A back-to-school email marketing campaign from Thread Wallets

Yes, Thread Wallets is back on this list, but this time with a great email marketing campaign that works for a wide audience, whether they’re going to class or simply want to get into that prep school spirit. It’s a great way to lean into a seasonal theme, and creatively promote a range of products.

Get more ideas for the back-to-school season and beyond by exploring our SMS gallery, Texts We Love. And check out our 2024 text messaging calendar for more key dates and marketing tips. 

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