Trying to Bring a Product to International Schools? Free Trials, Testimonials Matter

Contributing Writer
EdWeek Market Brief: trends in purchasing in international private schools

The vast majority of officials making purchasing decisions at international private schools are more likely to buy a vendor’s product if they can test it out first via a free trial, according to a new report

United Kingdom-based ISC Research, which provides data and intelligence on international schools around the world, recently released a white paper focused on how international schools select their suppliers and make purchasing decisions. 

The report has implications for many education companies from the United States and elsewhere that have found a market selling their products within the vast network of international private schools worldwide. There are currently more than 12,370 international schools serving about 5.7 million students across 239 countries or territories, according to ISC.

For the report, ISC surveyed 61 educators and leaders from international private schools in 35 countries in all regions of the world — except Australia — in October of this year to get a sense for how education companies could better support the international private school market. 

Almost 80 percent of respondents said they are more likely to make a purchase with an education company after a free trial.

One survey respondent put it bluntly: “If a supplier doesn’t provide samples of their product, I immediately disqualify them.”

Testimonials From Other Schools Matter

The survey also showed that officials making purchasing decisions for international private schools want reassurances outside of a sales pitch. Sixty-two percent said they want the chance to talk directly to other customers using the tool or service, and the same percentage said they want to see evidence that the products being pitched are having a positive impact on existing customers. 

“And respondents want to know that any direct messaging to them is personal and relevant, based on informed knowledge of the school, its orientation and demographic, and supported by other engagement,” the report said. “Most school offices and systems will automatically delete generic emails.” 

About half of respondents — 51 percent — said they want the education companies they partner with to offer support through live chat, while one-quarter said they want vendors to simplify their processes by using e-commerce or some other online payment options. 

The report also breaks down the most common resources being currently being purchased by international private schools. 

  • Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they are involved in purchasing e-learning resources, while 75 percent said they are buying professional development tools. 
  • Almost the same amount of respondents — 73 percent — are actively engaged in purchasing administration software and school management information systems.
  • Another 70 percent are currently buying curriculum content, and the same percentage are also purchasing assessment tools, according to the survey.
  • The most common resources being purchased are classroom equipment and furniture. Ninety percent of survey respondents said they are involved in this purchasing decision. Eighty-five percent are involved in purchasing physical classroom supplies, and 77 percent are involved in purchasing e-learning resource.

When it comes to barriers for market entry in specific countries, 12 percent said there are no specific laws or regulations in their countries that would present as roadblocks for education companies.

However, 5 percent said country-specific legislation does present a barrier to market entry. The report noted that those respondents are located in China and Kenya. (Chinese government officials have imposed a series of new restrictions on education companies in recent years that have drawn scrutiny in the education industry.)

On a similar note, about a quarter of respondents said logistics — shipping and customs — present the greatest barrier to entry for their country, perhaps an allusion to global supply-chain bottlenecks. And almost 10 percent said the cost of shipping to their country is a “major barrier.” 

The report also highlighted another area of interest for vendors: decision makers at private international schools value the ability to access information about new products through Google or other search engines, and through product demonstrations and videos, more than they do cold direct email campaigns. 

“This highlights the need for a strategic approach,” the report notes, “using multiple routes to engagement, and relying on a clearly defined segmentation of the market and audiences.”

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Image by Getty

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