Out-of-pocket spend continues to skyrocket for educators, according to a new survey of 538 U.S. K-12 teachers across the U.S. Published this week by SheerID and Agile Education Marketing, the fifth annual teacher shopping study reveals teachers’ out-of-pocket spending on classroom supplies, instructional materials, and professional development soared to $652—a 39% increase from last year and the highest amount since the survey started in 2013. The study also found that teachers continue to reward retailers that provide exclusive teacher offers and programs, with 88% indicating they actively seek out those retailers.
Insight gleaned from the survey underscores the importance of gated, exclusive offers geared to teachers to help them save money, as well as the value of ongoing online programs in driving loyalty and free word-of-mouth marketing.
Teachers from around the country have been forced to spend more of their own money to ensure their students have adequate materials. A large majority (71%) of teachers spent over $500 on their classroom, with some reporting having spent an astounding $7,000 during the course of the year. As spending increased, 83% of teachers indicated they actively seek out retailers that provide teacher discounts over a competitor. In addition, 84% recommend retailers that provide teacher offers to other teachers.
“As school budgets tighten and classroom needs become more sophisticated, educators are feeling mounting pressure to spend their own money. It is now more important than ever for retailers to offer relief,” says Jake Weatherly, CEO of SheerID. “Gated, exclusive offer programs are serving as a welcome strategy for consumers and retailers alike, creating an appealing incentive that honors teachers’ service and helps them save money, while supporting brands by lowering acquisition costs and driving loyalty.”
Teachers overwhelmingly prefer gated, exclusive offers online
In an increasingly digital world, teachers mandate that retailers bring their teacher offers online. K-12 teachers, who number 3.4 million in the U.S and spend $1.5 billion annually, favor retailers that offer teacher-specific discounts and offers online for personal items (82%) and classroom supplies (92%)—data that overwhelmingly indicates the importance of retailers having a multichannel strategy.
The type of offer most favored by teachers is free shipping (preferred by 90% of educators), followed by a larger discount on a single product (87% of educators.) An “everyday” discount also emerged as a good strategy, with 80% of respondents sharing that it would get their attention. While back-to-school offers remain an important strategy for digital marketers, the data indicate that retailers can bolster the value of seasonal promotions with ongoing, year-round offers that drive loyalty.
Teachers are highly influential within their networks
The survey illustrates that teachers hold great influence among their peers. As expected, teachers lean on their social networks as a way to learn about deals, citing other educators (80%), social media (58%), and friends and family (52%) as their top three sources. However, retailers also play a role in getting the word out: a brand’s website and an email sent to a teacher’s school email address are other ways teachers learn about special offers.
Teachers also hold influence within their school system: according to the survey, 70% of teachers either choose technology for the school or have an influence in decision making for technology purchases.
“Based on the power teachers have with both word-of-mouth marketing and school purchasing decisions, it’s vital that brands get it right when delivering exclusive offers to this influential group of consumers,” says Verlan Stephens, managing partner and CIO for Agile Education Marketing. “Along with the fact that teachers are eager for exclusive offers geared just to them, the big takeaway from this year’s survey is that discount programs need to make teachers’ lives easier, from free shipping and online redemption to everyday offers available throughout the year.”
For more on the survey results, view this infographic.