7 August 2020 Tips & Tricks

How to Set Up a Back to School Email Promotion on Shopify— Even If Nobody’s Going Back to School

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It’s no surprise that back to school season is going to look a bit different during the dumpster fire of a year that is 2020. While parents and students bear the brunt of this bad situation, digital retailers are in a tough spot, too. An emphasis on virtual learning means once-coveted back to school items like dorm furniture and new outfits are all but irrelevant. Many school districts are unsure of how or even if kids can safely return to classrooms, leaving businesses unsure of what to even promote at a time like this. 

But just because Covid-19’s effect on back to school shopping is unprecedented doesn’t mean your Shopify store has to completely wing it when it comes to putting on a back to school(ish) sale. Here are a few handy tips about how to email your customers, what to promote, and how to convince them to convert during one of the most uncertain times in recent history. 

Send Emails that Empathize

The pandemic has naturally bred a lot of anxiety and frustration about schooling for both parents and students. Monitoring kids who are learning at home is stressful, but the idea of sending them back to the classroom before a vaccine is available is a scary proposition. On top of that, college students probably aren’t excited about handling all of the usual coursework without any of the on-campus fun. 

Any email marketing effort that pretends everything is just fine and dandy will surely alienate potential customers, so don’t beat around the bush. Acknowledge that this school year is going to look, feel, and function much differently. Validate what your customers are feeling, and show that you understand their struggles. If you set this up well (while maintaining a consistent brand voice), it signals to them that what you’re promoting at a time like this can be relevant to their needs during this “new normal”. 

Shift Your Sales Items and Redefine Back to School Shopping

After you’ve used your words to show your audience you empathize with their pandemic back to school plight, show them you mean it by promoting a set of back to school products tailored for their current needs. 

Even if students might not be physically going “back” anywhere this fall, approach “back to school” as a mindset centered on new routines and at-home productivity. In short, promote the items that can make the process of doing school at home suck a bit less. That can involve anything from productivity-boosting tech to office furniture to whatever can keep parents sane while juggling teaching with their own remote work. Heck, even a primo pair of sweatpants can fit the bill if you help your audience reframe how to dress for success. 
At the end of the day, it’s still the start of a new school year. People crave routines and the fresh start that the moment provides. If you get creative about how your Shopify store’s products can fit into that and adapt to your customers’ new needs, you can capitalize.

Examples of brands adjusting their offering according to "new needs".

Master the Basics of Successful Promotion to Seal the Deal

Just because what your customers expect from a back to school sale will be different this year doesn’t mean throwing out the framework for a perfect promotional campaign. As always, that means sticking to our three essential building blocks for Shopify sale mastery. 

First, be clear and direct about what’s on sale, how much your customers will save, and how long the deals will last. That means making it obvious how to take advantage of the deal, showing off the goods, and using clear calls to action in order to coax that conversion. 

In this case, back to school season is already a fairly clear “why”, but make your case unique to the current moment. Let your Shopify audience know that just because school will look a little different this year doesn’t mean back to school sales are off. You can further strengthen your case by letting customers know you’re here to help them adjust to a new and very different school year. This positions you as a vital partner who’ll help them navigate this unfamiliar terrain with confidence.

While there’s (unfortunately) no hard deadline for when life will go back to “normal”, there needs to be a hard deadline for your sale to compel customers to act. Pick a length for the promotion, and remind your customers as the deadline draws nearer. These finite sales windows are crucial for encouraging your email recipients to take action. If you’re totally stumped, ending things on or close to Labor Day seems like a reasonable idea. 

No matter what the school year ultimately looks like, meet your customers where they are if you want to pull off a successful back to school sale. Once you let them know you’re on their side and put the right products in front of them, it’s just like any other promotion. If only everything else about dealing with this pandemic were that simple. 

And you know what makes all of this even easier? You guessed it! Installing Pathfinder and let it do the work for you. It's now ready to create a covid-proof back to school promotion for you. Try it for free and get your first campaign out in just a few minutes...

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Corin Camenisch

Marketing Manager at Pathfinder

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