For many consumers—particularly Millennials who have spent a large percentage of their lives attending school—back-to-school season signals the beginning of a new year, perhaps even rivaling the calendar year. And with the start of each academic year, of course, comes another back-to-school shopping season: an economic event that has grown to become the second-largest shopping period of the year in the US. According to an annual survey from the National Retail Federation, American families with children in elementary through high school planned to spend a total of $29.5bn on school supplies in 2017. This figure represents an 8% increase in total expenditure from $27.3bn in 2016. Expanded to include college students, total estimated 2017 back-to-school spending reached a staggering $83.6bn.

Cross-sector announcement: School is in session

No longer simply a retail holiday for clothing and department stores, companies from all sectors—including automotive, insurance and telecom—have entered the back-to-school marketing fray, using the start of the school year as a springboard to offer new purchases and upgrades in their respective industries. This sort of exploration into novel marketing opportunities exemplifies the Mintel Trend 'Extend My Brand,' which speaks to the increasing need for companies to branch out and innovate in order to stay relevant. AAA, the popular motor club organization, provided a salient example of such cross-sector innovation in an acquisition email for its AAA Member Rewards Visa credit card. The campaign urged members to “Gear Up For Back To School,” and partnered with Walmart to offer a $50 gift card after spending $500 in purchases. In the telecom sector, Sprint tapped into the spirit of the season to state: “It’s time for: back to school, back to Sprint, back to value.”

Back-to-school emails peaked at the end of July

Starting at the beginning of July, the volume of emails promoting back-to-school shopping steadily escalated, reaching a high-water mark on July 30, 2017. According to Mintel ePerformance/eDataSource, more than forty major retailers sent a combined 143 million emails on that Sunday alone. The most-read campaigns utilized the subject line to call out rewards opportunities and sales events, and often referenced specific dollar amounts or discounted items. To learn more, Mintel Comperemedia clients will find a thorough review of back-to-school marketing campaigns from various sectors here. Our most recent Back-to-School Shopping US report is available to clients on Mintel Reports or for sale in the Mintel Store.
Chris Shadle is a Comperemedia Research Analyst at Mintel, providing omni-channel marketing analysis and competitive insights across multiple sectors.