Amazon on Wednesday launched back-to-school and "off to college" stores, with dedicated landing pages for each. The e-commerce giant also offers a dedicated online shop within its Amazon Business section for educators to shop for classroom necessities, from desks to pencil sharpeners, according to a company press release.
For the first time this year, children ages 13-17 can get their own Amazon login under their parent's account and shop on their own using the Amazon App, the company said. Parents have the option to approve an order or set pre-approved spending limits. Those with Prime memberships can share select benefits with their teen at no additional cost, including free two-day shipping, Prime Video and Twitch Prime.
College students can ship their purchases to their schools and pick up orders at an Amazon pickup location on or near campus, the company also said.
It's that time of year, when kids are free from school and retailers are already working to get them ready to go back.
Back-to-school marketing in recent years has shifted earlier and earlier as competition heats up among retailers of all stripes, and it's yet another area where Amazon is encroaching, with back-to-school assortments and easy shopping, including fulfillment to college campuses. This year is shaping up to be another early start, with Amazon releasing one of the first marketing salvos in the space.
"Amazon's announcement today of its 'full force launch' of the back-to-school/back-to-college season highlights what is sure to be a highly-competitive season for 2018, with Prime Day just around the corner as well," Moody's Investors Service Lead Retail Analyst Charlie O'Shea said in comments emailed to Retail Dive.
But Amazon has plenty of competition, with Walmart and Target expanding their offering and marketing, and Best Buy ready with school-oriented consumer tech, O'Shea also said. In fact, they have some advantages over Amazon because back-to-school shopping is often a family affair, conducted in stores.
This year, despite many retailers' moves to avoid discounting in a healthy economy, consumers will likely benefit from all the jockeying as retailers compete on price.
Last year, Amazon ranked first in back-to-school shopping both early and late in the season — the only retailer to make both lists in a survey from brand loyalty research firm Brand Keys. That year Walmart and Best Buy both made the early list, while their e-commerce sites ranked on Brand Keys' late-season list.
That makes sense, considering that later shoppers may want or need to resort to online shopping late in the summer, especially when retailers give the option of delivering purchases to college campuses.
"Brick-and-mortar retailers typically fare well during this season as it has 'family outing' characteristics, as well as offering shoppers the ability to order online and pick up at a store near college, which reduces need for families to 'lug' large size purchases," he said. "However, Amazon is expanding its pick-up points to attempt to blunt this advantage. All in all, the aggressive promotional environment will continue this season, with the ongoing price battle between Walmart and Amazon creating ripple effects that will continue to be felt throughout retail."