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Back-to-School Email Engagement and Shopping Activity

Back to school email analysis

While you may still be struggling to get all the sand out of your shoes from the Fourth of July, it’s not too early to be thinking about back-to-school.  As with the holidays, the back-to-school shopping season is starting earlier each year. 2014 research from the National Retail Federation revealed that 22.5% of US internet users shopping for school-age children started at least two months before school began. However, 44.5% started between three weeks and a month ahead of time.

Last summer, email marketing volume and open rates for 30 top retailers—tracked using Yesmail Market Intelligence—reflected the relatively low retail activity that’s typical of the start of the season. The chart below shows how July tends to be a slow month with a conservative email volume while August sees an increase in email activity as many consumers shift from shopping to purchasing for the fall. 

A drill-down in average open rates also highlights the fact that there is a seasonal summer slump in consumer engagement. In 2014, email marketing campaigns that ran closer to the start of school had open rates 32% higher than those from earlier in the summer. What’s more, ShopperTrak found that in-store sales peaked in the first two weeks of August last year.

2015 survey from NRF finds that families with kids in grades K-12 will spend an average of $630.36 on apparel, electronics, and other school needs. Total spending is predicted to reach close to $25 billion. The onus is on retailers to heed consumers’ browsing and buying behavior for back-to-school in order to gain wallet share.

For starters, retail marketers should ramp up email campaigns in August, when many consumers are back from vacation and buying gear just in time for the new school year. Another approach: marketers can use editorial-style content to encourage subscriber engagement. The email below from Walgreens, which featured a checklist to help parents prepare their children for back-to-school, had an open rate of 24.6%. This kind of value-added messaging from retailers garnered the highest open rates for back-to-school emails in 2014.


Subject Line | Your August Health Email: check our back-to-school checklist


Author Bio

Melissa Goss

Melissa helps companies make more strategic decisions around their marketing campaigns by providing content that spans blog and social media posts to white papers and case studies. Prior to Yesmail, she focused on search engine marketing and social advertising at online retailer ModCloth. Melissa graduated from Northwestern University with a B.A. in Communication Studies, a minor in Business and a certificate in Integrated Marketing Communications.