Did you know back-to-school month is the second biggest shopping season of the year? And it’s not just about shopping for the kids. While school supplies and clothing are obvious items on back-to-school lists, all kinds of retailers are jockeying for attention, too. Our inbox has been buzzing with unexpected back-to-school email designs that give us heart eyes, so here’s a roundup of the most inspiring ones. Use them to get creative with your own back-to-school email design before September hits!
1. Kate Spade puts on a pretty color-coded product display
Part of what makes Kate Spade’s email feel so elegant is that it sticks to a color scheme: peachy-pink-gold tones with pops of green. The email pitches back-to-school products, and it also gets into the school spirit with an a-b-c product display (instead of the usual 1-2-3) in the second module. The final option is, of course, to select “G: all of the above.” Because the quiz theme is so easily recognized, it doesn’t even require set-up text. The final result is a spirited, minimalistic email that’s simply pretty to read.
2. Tarte offers a “pop quiz” featuring top beauty products
It’s not just Kate Spade putting readers to the “test.” Tarte sent a pop quiz email that’s a little more obvious but just as sweet. The video snapshots link to product-promoting videos, while the second module offers quick links to the individual projects, if you’re ready to move quickly to your shopping cart. The whole message is set against a “paper” background, which is set against a bulletin board. Even though its products are school-related, Tarte creates a message that instantly evokes a classroom feel while maintaining its colorful and bold brand style.
3. Blue Mercury lists its best items with playful puns
It’s the time of year for checklists, but spiral notebooks and No. 2 pencils aren’t on Blue Mercury’s list. Instead, the brand displays some of its products alongside playful back-to-school copy. “A+ exfoliation” for a facial peel, “extra credit hydration” for moisturizer, etc. The design is simple and clever. The lined notebook paper motif and illustrated check boxes are nice touches, too. It just goes to show that, no matter your product, there’s a way to show back-to-school spirit with a few smart design choices.
4. Cook Smarts packs an animated lunch
The meal plan subscription service Cook Smarts sent a back-to-school email with the cutest animated GIF:
In addition to the back-to-school sale, they also included a really flattering testimonial from a parent. This is pretty compelling for subscribers who take the time to read it—especially parents planning for the school year ahead—and it might just be the push readers need to click.
5. DC goes sleek with an S-curve product display
Skate-and-snowboard brand DC maintains a clean and sleek email style with shades of black, white, and gray. This back-to-school email is no exception, and the streamlined simplicity of it caught our eye. We’ve seen brands cram a lot of products into their emails or create clutter with overstuffed photo collages. But not DC. Using high-quality photography and minimal text, their product display takes on an s-curve shape that’s easy to scan. The s-curve means the photos alternate sides from module to module, creating a zig-zag effect. If not done well, it can feel like a lot for your eyes to take in, but this one—with its white space and pared-down text—looks perfect.
6. Grammarly runs an illustrated “fun factathon” campaign
Grammarly is a grammar-checking tool that helps people write better. Of course, it would be obvious for the brand to market its product in a straightforward way: “Get Grammarly, and write better this school year (or help your kids write better).” Instead, the brand launched an email drip campaign that sends fun facts about school. This is a content-enriching approach that makes it feel like you’re not just reading a “SALE SALE SALE!” message. The value-add of the more meaningful content can help build brand loyalty and trust.
7. Poppin animates products with pops of color
Last year, office supply company Poppin created a series of brightly-colored GIFs as part of their back-to-school email designs. They’re fun and fresh in channeling the power of things arranged neatly.
Emails with GIFs like these are best optimized when coupled with plain text. In the BEE editor, plain/live text can even be layered on top of an image—including a GIF—to make the email better optimized for all devices and inboxes.
8. La Colombe’s coffee is framed in a boxed layout
Even coffee can be an important ingredient on the back-to-school shopping list. La Colombe joins the party with this beautifully photographic email (that could also benefit from an infusion of live text). The gray background color on either side also gives the central message a “boxed” effect. This is an email trick that can help frame your content. Our tutorial How to Design a Full-Bleed vs. Limited-Width Email Layout Design can show you how.
9. Ban.do goes millennial pink
Online store Ban.do used a gorgeous color palette for their back-to-school email. They aren’t the only ones on the millennial pink bandwagon. We love the collaged, layered effect of different colors, textures, and design elements. A photo-heavy email like this is a perfect example of one that would benefit from live text layering over background images. The brand font used in the body text isn’t adding much value; it’s similar enough to other email-safe fonts that the brand could use an alternative while making the email more spam filter-proof.
Wrap-up: Get inspired with back-to-school email designs from any industry
You don’t have to be Office Depot to broadcast your back-to-school spirit. Putting a little thought into your design can help you fit in with the season and stand out from the rest. Sign-up for a BEE Pro free trial and get started on your fresh design before Labor Day!