4 Easy Ways Retail Marketers Can Elevate Back-to-School Emails

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Back-to-school is bigger than ever in 2021. In fact, the National Retail Federation expects parents will shell out a record $849 per household on everything from apparel to electronics before sending their kids back to class.  

And most back-to-school shopping won’t happen in-store. According to a recent Mulberry study, 60% of parents will do most of their purchasing online. 

As an email marketer, back-to-school success isn’t about sending more campaigns than you did last year. It’s about doubling down on the value and personalization you offer across every interaction to drive revenue and growth.

Try these four low-effort, high-impact tactics you can implement now to maximize results in your back-to-school campaigns.

Keep busy back-to-school shoppers engaged with cart abandonment reminders

Back-To-School season is always a busy time for parents and students. Your shoppers are browsing dozens of different stores, sites, and emails to score the perfect deal on products they need. And while that means a lot of competition, it also means tremendous opportunity for any brand that steps up its email game to make items easier to find, browse, and buy.

Forever 21, a top performer in the 2021 Retail Personalization Index, sends a cart abandonment reminder through email or whichever channel any customer last engaged with (SMS, in-app notification, etc.) anytime someone exits the brand’s online store before finalizing their transaction to keep its interactions top-of-mind.

back-to-school emails

Adidas, which ranks sixth in this year’s Retail Personalization Index results,  also uses cart abandonment messaging to keep its busy back-to-school shoppers engaged. However, this fashion-forward retailer takes these personalized updates to another level by pinging each potential buyer’s phone with a text message at the same time emails are delivered to maximize the chances these notifications make their mark.

back-to-school emails

If you don’t ask for or collect customers’ phone numbers consistently, now’s the time to start. Create a campaign specifically for this ask and incentivize your loyal shoppers with things like special rewards or an exclusive loyalty program status to thank them for submitting this info. Doing so not only increases your chances of successfully gathering this first-party data, but gives customers immediate value that’s sure to keep them engaged and coming back for more going forward.

Prioritize payment and fulfillment services in every back-to-school email

As the old saying goes, “Time is money.” And this back-to-school season, millions of shoppers pressed for time will reward the retail brands that make paying for and picking up their items as easy as it was to click ‘buy.’ 

But the value of talking about your payment and fulfillment services in back-to-school emails goes beyond customer convenience. These highly personalized transaction processes give you unprecedented insight into how your buyers prefer to browse, shop, and ultimately buy—giving you the potential to create targeted campaigns and audience segments to make your messaging even more effective in the future.

If you haven’t inserted any of this language into your back-to-school emails yet (or are just getting started), here are a few things to keep in mind:

Payment plans: The last 18 months have witnessed an explosion in ecommerce. Beyond traditional credit and debit cards, online payment methods such as PayPal, Stripe, Apple Pay, and Buy Now/Pay Later services like Afterpay and Affirm have grown wildly popular. So, if you accept any of these digital alternatives let your online back-to-school shoppers know. After all, if someone finds out how easy it is to spend money with your brand they’re that much more likely to make repeat purchases down the road.

Fulfillment services: Pandemic or not, curbside pickup , Buy Online Pickup In-Store (BOPIS), and locker delivery are COVID-19 consumer trends that are here to stay. In many cases, these convenient fulfillment methods can even help you differentiate your brand from the competition.  In fact, our Retail Personalization Index Consumer Survey research found that 31% of current retail consumers used BOPIS or curbside pickup in 2021 and will continue to do so.

back-to-school emails

To give your customers the most satisfying hybrid experience possible, use the order confirmation or pick-up notification emails you already send to explain each step in the process clearly. What to do next, where to go, what to bring, what safety protocols are in place, when to pick up items, and anything else your customers need to know before completing their purchase should never be questions your back-to-school shoppers should have to ask.

Show customers you know them with dynamic content, product recommendations, and more 

When it comes to showing back-to-school buyers that they mean more to your brand than a name in a database or a dollar figure on a spreadsheet, no marketing channel can compete with email. Especially for fashion and apparel retailers that face fiercer competition than ever this season. Dynamic content, personalized product recommendations, and interactive email elements are the key to creating truly one-to-one customer experiences.

Let’s face it; your customers’ inboxes are likely overflowing with back-to-school emails as is. So, here are three simple tactics you can use to make your messages stand out from the crowd and move customers from their first interaction to your purchase path faster.

1. Deliver on dynamic merchandise recommendations.
Recently, we discovered that emails with products pulled automatically from available inventory deliver higher ROI than those with only a static array of goods featured. Not to mention a dramatic reduction in the number of buyers who receive the dreaded ‘sold out’ notice too.

back-to-school emails

Given many retailers are still experiencing supply chain disruptions and raw material shortages, it’s never been more important to communicate accurate product availability to your customers. As you can imagine, being able to seamlessly replace sold out sales promotions with another relevant item is a huge benefit to any back-to-school email marketing strategy.

2. Build loyalty with regular rewards updates and year-in-review emails.

If your brand offers customer loyalty points or a purchase-based rewards program, let customers see where they stand with regularly scheduled email updates that list their accumulated rewards and loyalty program status, what that means and what they can buy with their points, what they need to spend to reach the next level, and all of the tempting new treats waiting for them at your next tier.

back-to-school emails

3. Add interactive elements that increase engagement.

Believe it or not, it’s okay to say more than “Buy this,” in your back-to-school emails. Adding interactive elements like countdown timers can create a sense of urgency and FOMO that inspire customers to act before time runs out. Or, in the case of an embedded email poll, can help you collect new insights and first-party data points to make your individual customer profiles even more impactful.

back-to-school emails

If your back-to-school emails could use some strategically personalized fun, here are a few additional interactive elements to test out, implement, and get your loyal shoppers involved with:

  • Add-to-calendar event buttons and links that trigger an automated notification about an online or in-store event upon receiving your email
  • maps, store hour lists, offers, or merchandise arrays tied to the recipient’s favorite store or ‘home’ location
  • Embedded email video with an automatic default to a hosted video online if the viewer’s email client doesn’t support your personalized content

Focus on the future and forecast who your best customers will be

Your customer data can yield amazing insights that—if used properly—will help you target and message new back-to-school shoppers for years to come. And the best part? It enables your brand to acquire new customers without depleting your marketing budget or sacrificing profit margins in the short-term to do so.

By collecting first-party data through your emails and combining these insights with accurate customer forecasting models, you can know which products someone is likely to buy next before they ever express interest. Making ‘next logical product’ marketing a breeze to successfully manage.

back-to-school emails

Here’s an example: your historic purchase data shows that most back-to-school shoppers who purchase a new laptop return to buy a laptop bag later on. With predictive analytics in the mix, however, your email marketing strategy eliminates the wait that could lead to them buying this item from a competitor instead.

Because anytime someone purchases a laptop going forward, you can trigger a personalized follow-up email with an exclusive discount on your brand’s hottest selling laptop bags and backpacks to maximize revenue generated from each sale.

But that’s not the only benefit future-focused customer forecasting offers. You can also use these tools to reach audiences who have not bought from you or signed up for your email list yet with more timely, relevant interactions.

By analyzing your most valuable current customers’ characteristics, you can build an ideal buyer profile to target across all of your digital marketing channels and initiatives. Just make sure the campaign landing page you’re directing them to includes a prominent invitation to take action—whether it’s following you on social media or joining your email list.

That way, everyone has an option to engage with your back-to-school emails and start building a relationship with your brand right away—whether they’re ready to open their wallets up or not.

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Brittany is a digital marketer with experience building an online presence for both B2B and B2C brands. As the S. Content Marketing Manager for Liveclicker, Brittany plans and produces effective communication across channels, creating valuable content that helps clients and prospects harness the power of moment-of-open personalization.

Brittany King
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