September is generally a great month… for parents. Children go back to school, leaving their legal guardians exhausted by the long summer break and the shopping spree of school clothes and supplies. Back-to-school expenses can be quite remarkable. In the United States, for example, it represents the second biggest shopping season of the year after Black Friday, while according to Statista, in 2018 parents in the United Kingdom are expected to spend somewhere in the region of £1.5 billion, which represents an increase of approximately £15 million pounds year on year.

That is a lot, and the pressure is definitely mounting for UK retailers, who want to increase their share of this valuable pie. With 20% of retail sales currently taking place online, retailers realize the importance of communicating with their existing customer base, rather than focusing on onsite services.

Retailers usually invest in a mix of TV and radio commercials, print and online ads, flyers and newspaper inserts, while email marketing remains the most direct and cost-effective way to approach consumers. I’ve been following some of these campaigns in the UK, and what really struck me is how similar they are in their approach. Is back to school shopping relevant to K-12 education only? Who decides? What is “essential” and what’s “nice-to-have”? Do postcodes affect the back-to-school shopping list at all?

As with most email campaigns, segmentation is the best way to get results – even from the back-to-school shopping. In order to increase the effectiveness and responsiveness of their email campaigns, retailers should reconsider their target audience when it comes to:


Back-to-school shopping isn’t just about primary education. Teenagers and university freshers need to do some shopping too, and their needs are usually more extensive and complex than those of first graders. Teenagers need laptops or other mobile devices, for example, while university students need sheets and duvets. Simply put, “one-copy-fits-all” won’t work in this case.


Children know exactly what they want, and they expect to have it. Sure, “non-creasing” or “wrinkle-free” is a great spec for school uniforms – at least from the parents’ point of view – but children would rather go for trendy. Furthermore, they’d love to see a funny video or engage with an interactive game. Email copy should reflect the needs of the family’s young but tech-savvy influencers, because (and every parent will agree with me) these little people will have something to say!


Consumer behavior and shopping habits vary significantly, and a comparison between London and Yorkshire can reveal crucial differences between regions. An analysis on the previous years’ spend per region will help develop email campaigns that promote the most relevant set of products to the right audience.

Retail is a highly competitive market, and the-back-to school season can be a stressful period not just for parents, but for marketers as well! Whatever your sales target for this season might be, you can get the best results by using effective segmentation techniques and employing the very latest technology for your email marketing campaigns: the one that will get you direct access to your customer’s inbox.

– Greg

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