Shine up your apples and your analytics, retailers. When it comes to gaining shopper loyalty, you can learn a thing or two from schoolteachers.
Rather than the three Rs, practice the PETs: Price, ease and tailoring. This is what teachers seek as they spend 11% of their own salaries on classroom items this year.
According to a survey of 674 teachers by the retail software maker SheerID and Agile Education Marketing, grade school educators spent an average of $468 of their own money on classroom supplies this year; 77% spent at least $200.
On the high end, some teachers reported spending as much as $5,000.
These numbers provide a lesson in target marketing that is pretty fundamental. Winning the classroom dollar means shifting the advantage to the teacher, not keeping it with the brand. These additional findings bear this out:
- Respondents are 96% more likely to purchase classroom materials from a company that offers a teacher discount online.
- More than eight in 10 respondents (83%) said a discount of 25% would get their attention, up 5% from 2016.
- Nearly half (49%) prefer to shop online.
- More than a quarter of respondents, 27%, would abandon an online purchase if the site had a complicated checkout process; 41% will bail if they have to pay for shipping.
Crash Course: Staples, Amazon and Office Depot Stretch the Dollar
But teachers will buy supplies, one way or another, as was painfully brought to attention in Oklahoma. There, a teacher recently panhandled on the side of the highway to raise money so she could buy school supplies.
Her dedication draws attention to the need to stretch the teacher dollar, and retailers could come to their aid. Teachers have long been tasked with buying classroom supplies out of pocket; budget cuts across school districts are adding to the burden.
This may be why many teachers extend their classroom spending across the school year. According to the SheerID/Agile Education Marketing survey, 36% of the respondents shop every few months; 28% shop every month. Among the retailers the respondents most prefer:
- Staples: Through its two-tiered Teacher Rewards Program, the office supplier gives 10% back on teacher- and art-supply purchases, 5% on most other purchases, free shipping on all orders and free next-day shipping on orders over $49.99, among other benefits. Premier members, who spend $1,000 or more a year, gain access to additional perks such as tech services.
- Amazon: Members of Amazon’s Business for Education program get price discounts, tax exemptions and free two-day shipping on orders of at least $49. Teachers can enroll individually or as groups, including administrative and support staff.
- Office Depot/OfficeMax: The supply chain’s Give Back to Schools program donates 5% of qualifying purchases to designated schools. The Office Depot/OfficeMax reward program gives 2% back on all purchases (VIP members get 5%) and it operates a dedicated teacher resource center.
The takeaway: Merchants should not underestimate the value of price reductions. Discount use among teachers is trending upward, helping to keep the total spending numbers in check.
Lessons in Learning the Market
It’s elementary: Winning over the increasingly perennial teacher market simply requires viewing the products and services they need from their perspective.
- Don’t add assignments: Never underestimate teachers’ ability to solve problems. Though nearly half prefer to shop online, few will linger if they encounter complicated checkout systems, fee-based shipping and other barriers. If faced with complexity, they’ll go elsewhere. Problem solved.
- Use simple math: The percentage of teachers enrolled in discount programs dropped to 39%, down 20% from the previous year, according to the survey results. SheerID and Agile Education Marketing suggest this indicates a desire for easier redemption methods. If retailers offered programs through which earning and redeeming rewards were immediate and simple, perhaps with mobile apps, teachers may be more inclined to enroll.
- Don’t take summer break: According to the survey results, two-thirds of teachers shop every month or every few months, so they want discounts across the calendar year. This should extend to the summer months, when teachers can stock up and invest in upcoming school-year needs. Think Christmas in July.
- Spell it out: Most teachers, 71%, hear about teacher discounts from a friend or co-worker. However, 54% learn from marketing emails and 43% from social media. This implies that a targeted marketing strategy will capture their attention, and encourage them to spread the word — if the benefit is clearly stated and succinct. Rely on good data and opt for being clear rather than cute.
Teachers aren’t complicated. To become a pet, retailers only need to do what good students do: show up on time, listen, learn and do the homework. This will earn teachers’ loyalty throughout the school years. There are no substitutes.