3 Things Retailers Should Learn From Back-to-School 2017
Email is still the marketing king, regardless of how many sexy new channels come along to challenge the throne. In fact, our own research shows that 47 percent of marketers report that email generates the highest return on investment for their organization. So if email is the workhorse of marketing, retailers must be smarter about their email campaigns, especially during peak seasons like back-to-school (BTS) or the holidays.
This BTS season, we saw brands big and small competing for a boost in Q3 sales. It wasn’t just school supply retailers and general merchandise sellers like Target and Wal-Mart making the most of the decades-old theme, either. Everyone from restaurants to travel sites to tech companies got in on the action. Here’s a look at how BTS marketing has changed, and what we expect this means for the upcoming holiday season.
It Wasn’t Just About Students
While BTS campaigns used to be all about new clothes and school supplies, brands of all kinds found creative ways to incorporate it into other offerings. For instance, upscale retailer Bergdorf Goodman aimed its BTS campaign at moms with the subject line, “Back to school for them, something new for you.”
For retailers, this means even if you think the BTS season isn’t relevant to your brand, all it takes is a little creative framing to surprise and delight your audience with something special. The same approach can be taken for the rest of the year. For instance, any type of retailer can send a Halloween-themed promo, regardless of whether it sells costumes or cookware. All it takes is a fun, seasonal design and spooky subject line.
There Were Plenty of Discounts, But That’s Not All
Before 2015, almost all BTS emails revolved purely around discounts or sales. Over time, content — especially videos and blog posts — has worked its way into the fold, and we saw that become especially prominent this year.
While sales and coupons are great, it’s important to provide other types of value if you want to stick out in a sea of brands all saying “40% off!” As we move into the holidays, consider putting together a seasonal style guide or create an engaging video highlighting the best gifts of the season for friends, family, co-workers, etc.
Trends Evolve (and Fade) Quickly
Although there was a spike in emoji usage in 2015 and 2016, when emojis in email subject lines were just beginning to get trendy, this year they declined quite a bit.
It’s important to remember that trends fade, and the novelty wears off quickly. Stay abreast of the latest techniques and email design trends to ensure you’re ahead of the curve. In terms of other popular trends for subject lines in 2017, consider piquing curiosity with a well-placed ellipsis, or use an element of humor (like a pun or pop culture reference) to evoke a positive emotional reaction.
BTS is a great practice run for the upcoming holiday season. Be creative with your promotions, think beyond discounts and stay up-to-date on the latest email trends to ensure you get the most out of the biggest retail season of the year.
Colby Cavanaugh is the senior vice president of marketing at Emma, an email marketing platform.