New Harris Survey: Teachers’ Plight and How Brands Can Help

When Covid-19  hit, it disrupted families and schools across the United States. Parents were overwhelmed, teachers were displaced, and children had to start learning from home.

A year and a half later the pandemic continues to take an unthinkable toll on our communities, creating social, emotional, and academic burdens – especially for students and teachers.

New research, conducted by the Harris Poll and sponsored by Agile Education Marketing and SheerID, draws from a survey of more than 900 K-12 teachers across the United States to deliver valuable insights into the disruption that occurred during the past school year. It also details how brands can help and connect with teachers as they face the ongoing challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Teachers represent one of the largest consumer communities with more than seven million members. As the nation heads back to school with a pandemic cloud still hovering above, this research offers a clear message: teachers need support and brands can provide it. 

Teachers Are Struggling

Not surprisingly, the survey revealed that teachers are one of the groups hardest hit by the pandemic. More than 3 in 4 educators (77%) said 2020-21 was the most challenging year they have ever experienced.

Many of those teachers remain concerned about the upcoming 2021-22 school year, too. Of those surveyed:

  • Nearly 8 in 10 (79%) said that the pandemic caused their students to lose out on learning.
  • 7 in 10 (72%) said the pandemic set back their students’ learning
  • 40% admit to feeling unprepared.

Teachers face a host of additional challenges, including budget concerns, uncertainty about what the pandemic will bring, and a thinning of their ranks as many colleagues retire early. According to the US Department of Education, nearly all 50 states reported teacher shortages for the 2020-2021 school year.

Teachers Are Trying to Overcome a Deficit

The pandemic has left teachers trying to do more with less. Around a third of teachers (35%) say their school budget did not adequately cover their needs for classroom supplies, instructional resources, and professional development this past school year.

Teachers are using their own money to make up for this loss. Two in five teachers (40%) who spent money out-of-pocket to augment their learning/classroom supplies and materials say they spent more during the 2020-21 school year than the years before. More than a third of teachers (35%) say they spent $500 or more of their own money.

Being A Teacher Is A Calling

Marketers should take note: many teachers see their work as a central aspect of who they are. When asked what were important components of their overall identity, nearly all said that being a teacher (96%) and the school where they work (81%) were both important components of their overall identity.

What’s even more striking, however, is how much higher teachers ranked those components compared to other demographic traits, including:

  • The city/neighborhood they live in (64%).
  • Their religion (58%).
  • Their national or cultural background (53%).
  • Their political affiliation (50%).

When looking at the same responses on a regional basis you can see subtle, regional differences in which statements are most important:

  • Midwest – Being a teacher (97%)
  • Northeast – Their family role (94%)
  • South – The school where I work (85%)
  • Northeast – Their hobby or activity (72%)
  • Midwest – The city/neighborhood they live in (66%)
  • South – Their religion (65%)
  • South – Their national or cultural background (59%)
  • West – Their political affiliation (52%)
How Important Are Each Of The Following In Your Overall Identity?
Response Northeast Midwest South West Total
Being a teacher 95% 97% 96% 95% 96%
My family role 94% 93% 90% 90% 91%
The school where I work 79% 80% 85% 80% 81%
My hobby or activity 72% 70% 70% 67% 69%
The city/neighborhood where I live 64% 66% 64% 62% 64%
My religion 53% 60% 65% 50% 58%
My nationality/cultural background 49% 45% 59% 52% 53%
My political affiliation 48% 47% 50% 52% 50%
Source: SheerID and Agile Education Marketing

How A Brand Can Be Teacher-Friendly

Eight in 10 teachers said they know a brand is teacher-friendly if it provides solutions to the unique challenges they face, such as offering teacher-specific discounts (65%) or supporting causes tied to education or school (53%).

Regionally, 76% of teachers in the Northeast feel a brand is teacher-friendly when it provides a teacher discount compared to 65% of all teachers who feel this way. In the South, they know a brand is teacher-friendly when it supports causes that teachers care about (50%).

I Know A Brand Is Teacher-friendly When It…
Response Northeast Midwest South West Total
Provides solutions for the unique challenges teachers face 76% 77% 83% 80% 80%
Provides teacher discounts 76% 66% 64% 60% 65%
Supports causes tied to education or school 50% 50% 56% 52% 53%
Supports causes that teachers care about 41% 45% 50% 42% 45%
Features people like me in their marketing and communications 14% 13% 16% 13% 14%
Other 3% 5% 3% 6% 4%
Source: SheerID and Agile Education Marketing

Teacher Shopping Behavior

Most of the teachers surveyed (85%) plan to purchase some large items in the next twelve months. At the top of their list was going on a vacation of one week or more (61%) and remodeling a room in their home (31%).

Which Of The Following Are You Planning To Do In The Next 12 Months?
Response Northeast Midwest South West Total
Go on a vacation for a week or more 64% 58% 62% 59% 61%
Remodel a room in my home 30% 33% 29% 31% 31%
Buy new furniture 21% 32% 34% 25% 29%
Buy a new laptop or device for my home 27% 25% 25% 30% 27%
Buy new electronics for my home 23% 23% 24% 20% 23%
Expand my current investment portfolio 21% 23% 20% 22% 21%
BUY HOME / REFINANCE / HOME EQUITY LOAN / HELOC (NET) 20% 17% 25% 17% 20%
Buy a new home 8% 8% 11% 8% 9%
Refinance my current home 7% 5% 11% 6% 8%
Take out a home equity loan/line of credit to improve my home 8% 6% 6% 4% 6%
BUY/LEASE CAR (NET) 17% 22% 16% 19% 18%
Buy a new car 14% 20% 15% 18% 17%
Lease a new car 3% 3% 1% 2% 2%
Change financial institutions 3% 3% 4% 3% 4%
None of these 12% 17% 13% 17% 15%
Source: SheerID and Agile Education Marketing

How Teachers Share Their Discounts

Teachers are loyal to brands that give them exclusive offers, and they express that loyalty by amplifying the promotion. If teachers learned of a discount or offer that was targeted specifically to teachers, almost all (98%) would share it with their peers, primarily by telling others about it in person (78%) or forwarding the email with the discount in it (75%).

If You Learned About A Teacher Discount Or Offer, How Would You Share It With Other Teachers?
Response Northeast Midwest South West Total
Tell them in person 72% 78% 80% 77% 78%
Forward an email I received about the discount 77% 77% 73% 76% 75%
Send a text message 57% 56% 61% 64% 60%
Social media (e.g., Facebook, Instagram) 43% 41% 48% 39% 43%
Share a referral link through the brand’s website 23% 25% 27% 24% 25%
Post on a blog, website, or other publication where other teachers could learn about it 10% 12% 11% 9% 10%
Source: SheerID and Agile Education Marketing

The Most Appealing Teacher Offers

Not all teacher offers are created equally. Teachers find free perks (62%) the most appealing, followed distantly by periodic opportunities to receive 20% off of a purchase (45%).

Which Of The Following Teacher Offers Would You Find Most Appealing?
Response Northeast Midwest South West Total
Free perks (free shipping, free checked bags, etc.) 57% 62% 64% 63% 62%
Periodic opportunities to receive 20% off your purchase 48% 47% 46% 43% 45%
10% off every purchase 44% 40% 39% 39% 40%
BOGO (buy one, get one free) 27% 39% 44% 31% 37%
Free gift (sample product, small item as a reward for shopping in-store or making a purchase, etc.) 35% 41% 37% 33% 36%
VIP experiences (access to special events, early boarding for a flight, etc.) 28% 24% 30% 33% 29%
Free returns 25% 18% 11% 21% 18%
Upgraded loyalty status 6% 9% 12% 9% 10%
Source: SheerID and Agile Education Marketing

How Teachers Research Purchase Decisions

Nearly all teachers (97%) research brands before making a purchase, and their most popular methods include online reviews and online searches. This gives brands who do digital marketing a good opportunity to win teachers’ attention.

Here were the top ways that teachers inform their purchase decisions:

  • Online reviews (80%)
  • Through an online search (71%)
  • Word-of-mouth by asking family/friends (68%)
  • Asking colleagues (65%)
How Do You Research Brands To Inform Purchasing Decisions?
Response Northeast Midwest South West Total
Online reviews 77% 81% 83% 77% 80%
Online search 69% 67% 75% 70% 71%
Ask friends/family members 70% 66% 68% 67% 68%
Ask colleagues 66% 60% 67% 64% 65%
Brand websites 30% 34% 34% 28% 31%
Social media 32% 30% 31% 27% 30%
I wait to hear directly from brands/wait for them to communicate with me 3% 8% 4% 4% 4%
Some other way 4% 3% 2% 2% 3%
Source: SheerID and Agile Education Marketing

How Teachers Would Use a Discount

When thinking about their purchases, most teachers said they would use a teacher discount not only to buy classroom or school supplies (92%), but also to purchase other discretionary or leisure items or services including:

  • Restaurants (73%)
  • Computers/mobile devices/electronics (68%)
  • Travel (65%)
  • Entertainment (63%)
  • Subscription services (62%)
  • Clothing (62%)
For Which Of The Following Types Of Products/Services Would You Use A Teacher Discount?
Response Northeast Midwest South West Total
Classroom/School supplies 88% 94% 93% 92% 92%
Restaurants 71% 70% 78% 70% 73%
Computers/mobile devices/electronics 72% 66% 69% 64% 68%
Travel 64% 65% 64% 65% 65%
Entertainment (e.g., movies, concerts, sporting events) 61% 63% 67% 60% 63%
Subscription services (e.g., mobile phone, cable) 63% 69% 64% 56% 62%
Clothing 63% 64% 63% 58% 62%
Software/Apps 39% 53% 57% 46% 50%
Streaming media (e.g., music, video, sports, etc.) 46% 53% 47% 45% 48%
Insurance 42% 41% 46% 40% 43%
Home/Garden 37% 34% 44% 39% 40%
Beauty/Personal care 27% 33% 44% 31% 36%
Banking/Credit cards 32% 28% 33% 25% 30%
Source: SheerID and Agile Education Marketing

The Best Ways to Market to Teachers

Substance matters when it comes to supporting these teachers, and personalized offers make a visible and immediate difference. Offers that have an impact include free perks (62%), periodic 20% discounts on purchases (45%), 10% off every purchase (40%), BOGO (37%), or free gifts (36%). In contrast, offers with more abstract benefits like upgraded loyalty status (10%), VIP experiences (29%), and free returns (18%) held less appeal.

The good news for brands is that if they take the right approach, teachers will feel emotionally supported and respond with greater loyalty. Here are some best practices for marketing to teachers:

  • Make Your Offer Attractive. Price your items and your discount competitively, demonstrating your sincere desire to help this group.
  • Create Messaging that is Genuine. Show teachers that you understand the challenges they face, such as tight school budgets.
  • Leverage the Power of Word-of-Mouth. As you create your program, remember that 98% of teachers say if they learned about a teacher discount, they would share it with other teachers in some way.
  • Run Back-To-School and Teacher Appreciation Campaigns. A teacher discount will be most effective during May and the end of summer, when Teacher Appreciation Month and the back-to-school season significantly increase the number of searches for “teacher discounts” and “teacher appreciation.”
  • Make Your Offer Highly Visible and Easy to Access. Link to your offer from high-traffic areas on your website, share it through social media channels, and promote it heavily during peak times, such as back-to-school, Spring Break, or the holiday season.
  • Engage with the Teacher Audience Online. Use social media to listen and respond to the teacher community by following trends, sharing articles, or simply participating in online conversations.

Teachers deserve recognition for the work they do every day, and providing them with discounts is not only an excellent way to show your support, it’s a great way to grow your business, reach new customers, and enhance your brand image. 

You can view the full Harris Poll report and learn more about how SheerID can help you win teachers with personalized offers.

Survey Method: 

This survey was conducted online by the Harris Poll on behalf of Agile Education Marketing and SheerID from June 16 to August 2, 2021 among 924 K-12 teachers. A random sample of teachers were invited to participate by email from Agile’s database of K-12 teachers as well as through social media. Results are not weighted and are therefore only representative of the individuals who completed the survey

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