Retailers Can Lend Teachers a Helping Hand

In the United States, over four million hard-working K-12 teachers bear the responsibility for educating our children, but too often they’re not given the tools they need to do their jobs. In many school districts, the budget barely covers the basics, so when back-to-school season hits, many teachers find themselves pulling out their own wallets to buy supplies for their classrooms. A recent survey conducted by SheerID and Agile Education Marketing revealed that in the 2013-2014 school year, teachers in the United States spent an average of $513 of their own money on classroom supplies, instructional materials, books, and professional development – a six percent increase over what teachers spent the year prior. School administrators may not be able to increase schools’ budgets to decrease teacher spending, but business owners who sympathize with teachers can help offset teachers’ out-of-pocket expenses.

One way retailers can help is by offering teachers exclusive discounts or academic pricing. Academic pricing is fairly standard in the software industry because teachers and professors need the programs in order to teach students how to use it. Many software companies like Flixel, Macphun, and Abbyy give teachers up to half-off their products.

Teacher discounts are also becoming more common in other industries. For example, apparel companies like Karen Kane and Fresh Produce extend discounts and special offers to teachers year round. Other retailers like Walmart and Staples offer limited-time discounts or teacher appreciation weekends throughout back-to-school season. And while these may be household names, even independent retailers can benefit from extending these discounts.

Eighty-one percent of teachers actively search for companies that offer teacher discounts, and 94 percent will go out of their way to shop at a store that offers a teacher discount. In the past, some retailers have been hesitant to offer teacher discounts because they are afraid that the discounts will be abused, but with an eligibility verification solution in place online or in-store, retailers can confidently offer deep discounts exclusively to teachers without worrying about fraud.

Companies that aren’t interested in discounting their products can still support teachers by building a teacher appreciation program. Costco, for example, doesn’t offer a discount on membership to teachers, but the big box retailer does give qualified teachers freebies and coupons when they sign up for a membership through their teacher appreciation program. Some teacher appreciation programs, like Costco’s, run year-round. Others are only available during back-to-school season and Teacher Appreciation month in May. Office Depot hosts teacher appreciation events where educators receive free breakfast, gifts with purchase, and extra loyalty program points. With a little creativity, marketers and business owners can think of ways to give teachers VIP treatment without hurting their bottom line.

Another option for retailers is partnering up with non-profit organizations that assist teachers. By supporting non-profits through cause marketing campaigns, product donations, or by donating a percentage of every purchase, businesses can indirectly help teachers provide for their students. Staples, Target, and Office Depot have teamed up with organizations like DonorsChoose, the Kids in Need Foundation, and for the 2014 back-to-school season. For local businesses, hosting school supply drives or putting out collection boxes for supplies to donate to local schools can be a simple and effective approach.

Teachers notice and appreciate businesses that value education. Ninety-seven percent of teachers surveyed by Agile Education Marketing and SheerID said that they feel valued by companies that have teacher appreciation programs, and 80 percent are more loyal to brands that offer teacher discounts. So why not create a teacher appreciation program? Retailers who give teacher discounts or other offers or partner with educational organizations help cash-strapped teachers, improve the education of students, and may just gain some new loyal customers in the process.

Contributed by Jake Weatherly, CEO of SheerID. Connect with Weatherly via LinkedIn and learn more about SheerID here

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