Amazon and Best Buy crush back-to-school email open rates. However, shoppers overall open fewer back-to-school marketing emails compared with last year, according to new data.

Electronics retail chain Best Buy Co. Inc. and Inc. had some of the best-performing back-to-school marketing emails, according to new data from email performance data provider eDataSource.

eDataSource analyzed 13 retailers that sell back-to-school products online, including Amazon (No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2018 Top 500), Target Corp. (No. 17), Walmart Inc. (No. 3), eBay Inc. (No. 4  in the Internet Retailer 2018 Online Marketplaces), Meijer Inc. (No. 452 in the Top 500), Macy’s Inc. (No. 6), Discount School Supply, Staples Inc. (No. 5), Office Depot Inc. (No. 14), Best Buy (No. 8), Dormify, Kidbox and Lands’ End (No. 51). eDataSource determined an email was back-to-school themed if it had one or more of the following words in their subject lines:  “school,” “student,” “campus,” “classroom,” “dorm” and “college.”

Best Buy and Amazon had some of the strongest open rates in this group, although almost every retailer, including Amazon and Best Buy, had open rates decrease this year compared with the equivalent period a year ago. In addition, the pair is among the earliest back-to-school email senders, along with eBay, Dormify and Lands’ End, who all launched campaigns in the first week of June.

Best Buy sent 21 back-to-school-themed marketing emails between June 3 and Aug. 10, and 11 of them, or 52%, had an open rate of 20% or more, which is the threshold that eDataSource considers a “strong” open rate.

Amazon is among the retailers that sent the most back-to-school campaigns, at 95 campaigns in the analyzed 10-week period. 49% of its campaigns had more than a 20% open rate, which is considered high performing, says John Landsman, director of strategy and analytics at eDataSource.


Amazon also had the most-opened campaign out of the entire group of 13 retailer’s 316 campaigns during this period, with a 45.6% open rate. The email, sent July 22, had the subject line, “Dorm Décor: Off to college checklist,” that it sent to 120,000 consumers.

The average number of back-to-school email campaigns retailers sent was 47 campaigns, although retailers fell into one of two categories: heavy, with more than 88 campaigns, or light, with 21 or fewer.

Along with Amazon, the following retailers sent the most back-to-school marketing email campaigns:

  • Target, 105 campaigns
  • Walmart, 104 campaigns
  • Staples, 119 campaigns
  • Lands’ End, 88 campaigns

On the lighter side:

  • Best Buy, 21 campaigns
  • EBay, 17 campaigns
  • Kidbox, 12 campaigns
  • Dormify, 11 campaigns
  • Discount School Supply, 10 campaigns
  • Office Depot, 9 campaigns
  • Meijer, 4 campaigns

Regardless of how many campaigns each retailer sent, nearly all of them increased the number of back-to-school email campaigns versus the comparable period last year, June 4-Aug. 11, 2017. For example, Walmart sent 16 back-to-school campaigns last year, compared with 104 this year, and Staples sent 37 campaigns last year, compared with 119 this year.


As a group, these 13 retailers sent 323 total back-to-school email campaigns in 2017, compared with 613 in 2018.

While retailers are sending more emails, consumers are opening fewer messages. On average, 40% of the 323 emails in 2017 had more than a 20% open rate, compared with just 15% of the 613 campaigns in 2018 that had more than a 20% open rate.

“With the exception of Target, all brands’ read-rate performance eroded versus 2017’s [read rates],” Landsman says. “This trend is consistent with a longstanding, widespread downtrend in marketing email (open) rates.”

Even Amazon and Best Buy, with the strongest open rates this year, had better open rates last year. 65% of Amazon’s back-to-school-themed emails during this time period in 2017 had a 20% or higher open rate compared with 49% this year, and 58% of Best Buy’s emails compared with 52% this year.

As a group, the most-opened emails often referenced a specific product or category, such as closets, backpacks or decor. Amazon had four of the 15 most-opened emails campaigns.


“All are product-focused; three with explicit category references,” Landsman says. “This is very typical of how Amazon configures and targets its content.”

The 15 most-opened campaigns had open rates ranging between 20.6% and 45.6%.