It feels like summer just started, yet here we are – already planning for the kids’ return to school. Gone are the days of sleeping in and lazily making your way to the beach (4pm is the best hour anyway, right?). Instead, parents need to start mentally preparing to make sure the kids are up, showered, dressed and safely on the bus by 7:15am. Afterschool activities and carpools are scheduled. Dinners and bedtimes will become more regimented. Everyone with school-age children will officially be back on a schedule.
By this point, chances are, parents have their back-to-school shopping nearly wrapped up. From flashy sneakers to ‘millennial pink’ everything, back-to-school spending is expected to reach $83.6 billion according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Families with school-age children are projected to spend an average $688 per child and average college student plans to spend $1,051 this year (Deloitte).
It’s no wonder retailers are flooding inboxes with back-to-school messages like, “Excited about going back to school? You will be,” “Get set for school with 20-40% OFF desks, bookcases and more” and “Ready for Day One.”
Ubiquitous Marketing Targets Few
But not everyone is going back to school. According to U.S. Census data, just 25 percent of the entire population ages three and up are enrolled in school. That means a lot of current and prospective customers are receiving irrelevant offers and promotions. As retailers plan their back-to-school campaigns, they also need to consider who they are not talking to and figure out how to best serve the under-served and not get too hung up on holiday marketing.
And back-to-school is just one example. Think about Valentine’s Day or Moms, Dads and Grads season. We certainly aren’t suggesting retailers ignore these holidays altogether, we are simply suggesting they take a step back and ask themselves, “Is my marketing addressing everybody?”
Marketing as Unique as the Individual
This is a good time for retailers to be looking at customer data to determine how they can market to those not particularly interested in a holiday or event like back-to-school season. What have they already purchased, which emails excite them most, what other parts of the catalog can (and should) they be exposed to and what messages and themes can be sent that don’t have anything to do with looking their best on the first day of school?
Marketers should make sure they have a healthy variety of email themes to suit the tastes of each individual customer. Perhaps there’s a group of customers that aren’t shopping for children’s backpacks, but – based on what is known about them – would be interested in hiking gear for the fall. A customer who isn’t shopping for notebooks and No. 2 pencils may be interested in upgrading their home office. Not only is this variety good for shoppers, but is a great way to expose more of a retailer’s product catalog, feature products that aren’t often marketed and, ultimately, increase sales.
As we all “fall” back into our routines and back-to-school schedules, make sure your email marketing calendar also gets a refresh and doesn’t get too hung up on email campaigns for the holidays.