Ask the Snail! Back to School


Have a burning question about Direct Mail that you've been longing to have answered? Ask Zippy! Zippy the Snail has been in the field of marketing since its inception. His wisdom is unmatched to those other "couriers" out there, and he's about as direct as it gets! Submit your questions to

Dear Zippy,

I know this school year has just finished, but the 2021 school season will be here quickly. Last year was an unprecedented time for back-to-school, and I don’t know how to think about the upcoming season.

Will school be in-person? Or virtual? Or a combination of both? Will it differ by state? Are there any tips you can share as to how we should be thinking about marketing for this upcoming back-to-school season?


In Need of Schooling

Dear Schooling,

This is one of those questions where a crystal ball would really come in handy.

You are right. We don’t know if school will be in person, remote or a little bit of both, depending upon what state you live in. Just as schooling in 2020 was anything but normal, so will be the recovery in 2021.

If I had to guess, I’d say students will be back in the classroom this year, at least to some extent. So while the usual school supplies will be needed, as educators have adopted and adapted to digital teaching tools, electronics (computers / tablets / AirPods) will also be needed regardless of where learning happens. And, because we expect some return to the classroom, we should also expect an increase in apparel spending. We’ve already started to see consumers spending on apparel as they have had a year of purging their closets and are now getting back out and seeing people. 

“Retail CEOs everywhere from Gap to Urban Outfitters have noted signs of an incoming retail boon, with the latter already seeing an uptick in purchases of going-out clothes. Insider May 2, 2021

As you think about back to school (BTS), keep these few things in mind:

  • The BTS season is the second biggest buying season of the year, second only to Holiday.
  • Start planning early and look back to BTS 2019 for guidance as this year will look more like 2019 than 2020.
  • Consumers shifted to digital channels and eCommerce accelerated in 2020 and your marketing spend needs to reflect that.
  • Take advantage of geo-targeting as guidelines will differ by region.
  • Direct Mail remains the channel of choice for BTS offers!

And remember, even with this need, many consumers have been hit hard by the pandemic and do not have an abundance of discretionary income. Value remains a top driver of consumer shopping behavior.

Good luck!



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