3 minutes

College-bound consumers signed up for The Container Store's back-to-school marketing SMS, MMS and in-app messages in record numbers, says the retailer.

The Container Store turned to SMS and MMS and in-app push messages to entice back-to-school college shoppers. The program enrolled more than 175,000 subscribers, which was 45% higher compared with its 2022 college subscriber list.

The retailer continues to adjust how it engages with subscribers, says Sydney Hamilton, senior director of digital marketing.

“When we started this program back in 2021, it was about ‘how do we just get out there and make a name for ourselves in the college space?’” Hamilton says.

Shoppers can opt out. But, once subscribed, the retailer can re-engage with shoppers during other busy shopping periods.

This year, college-related sales exceeded expectations, Hamilton says, without revealing more. The retailer shared sign up details through signage in-store, online, email and through the header of the retailer’s website. The retailer’s back-to-school messaging campaign is growing in popularity. In 2022, The Container Store enrolled more than 121,000 subscribers, which was 61% higher year over year compared with 2021.

Container Store SMS back to school campaign

The Container Store shared sign up details through signage in-store, online, email and through the header of the retailer’s website for its college back-to-school messaging campaign.

Back to school SMS text campaign

The Container Store began texting college-bound shoppers last spring — well before school started, Hamilton says.

“We understand this isn’t necessarily the time when people start purchasing,” Hamilton says. “But we looked at when college-bound high school graduates start getting gifts at graduation parties. So we started engaging in April and May about e-gift cards.”

The retailer uses mobile marketing vendor Vibes to reach customers. It’s not always about a sale, Hamilton says. The engagement rate for SMS, MMS and in-app push messages around types of products have increased, she says. The software looks at the list of recipients and their engagement history to determine who is likely to convert at one of three send times a day, Hamilton says. Vibes then sends messages out during their respective engagement times.


“We’ll share the types of products we have and show items they could potentially be using,” Hamilton says. “It’s been a great way to keep people engaged outside of those prime shopping moments.”

Click through rates and promotions

The click through rate (CTR) varies. This year, the retailer sent a text featuring a $20-off promo code for coffee machine and accessories manufacturer Keurig that resulted in 9% CTR. The retailer’s benchmark is 5%. Click through time is best at about 10 a.m., Hamilton says. The text was optimized for send times, meaning that they sent the message on a single day but split it to send in the morning only to SMS subscribers who had shown to engage more with text messages in the mornings. The same logic was applied to texts sent in the afternoon. This resulted in higher engagement versus sending it to all college SMS subscribers at the same time, according to the retailer.

Click through rate is a metric that measures how effective an ad is by calculating the percentage of people who view an ad and then click on it. A benchmark is the typical percentage of consumers who click on a retailer’s content.

The Container Store also sent an SMS text with a 20% discount on 3-tier storage carts, stacking drawers and other storage items. These also saw strong engagement, particularly because the promotion was targeted to only subscribers that previously purchased storage products.


Filling in the Bed Bath & Beyond gap

In addition to targeting text subscribers to maximize engagement, the retailer also noticed an opportunity in 2023 after Bed Bath & Beyond filed for bankruptcy. Online-only home goods retailer Overstock.com purchased it and has rebranded as Bed Bath & Beyond in June 2023. The website went live in August 2023. The retailer was a go-to shopping destination for many back-to-school college students.

“With Bed Bath & Beyond no longer in the market, it did leave a whitespace [this year],” Hamilton says. “So we asked ourselves, where can we fill in?”

Hamilton says The Container Store customer is looking online as well as shopping in-store. A popular promotion is the retailer’s 25% off offer that shoppers can add to their wallet pass on the app, similar to Bed Bath & Beyond’s promotional discounts.

Going forward, Hamilton says the retailer also uses its app to connect with shoppers. In fiscal year 2022, which ended in March 2023, the retailer had 450,000 first-time app downloads.


The Container Store Inc. ranks No. 345 in the Top 1000, Digital Commerce 360’s ranking of North America’s online retailers by web sales.

Do you rank in our databases?

Submit your data and we’ll see where you fit in our next ranking update.

Stay on top of the latest developments in the ecommerce industry. Sign up for a complimentary subscription to Digital Commerce 360 Retail News. Follow us on LinkedInTwitter and Facebook. Be the first to know when Digital Commerce 360 publishes news content.