Amazon’s First Staffed College Campus Store Should Have Retailers Worried

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Amazon is setting down roots in U.S. college campuses, and today it is celebrating the grand opening of its first ever staffed location at one of those schools. Purdue is the site of Amazon’s first campus drop-off and pickup location operated by actual amazon employees, and while it is in part a way for Amazon to expand its presence in the educational textbook market, the more impactful payload may be that it also effectively acts as a catalog sales-style retail store embedded right where students need it most.

Through the new staffed location, Amazon students who use the purdue.amazon.com version of the retail portal can find books assigned to classes via a Purdue logo badge, and they can also buy any Amazon item, as well as Prime Campus-eligible items that will be available for pickup in just one day. Once they checkout, they can select Amazon@Purdue as the shipping destination, and then they’ll receive an email or text when the item actually arrives at the locale. Pick-up whenever a student is able happens either via self-serve lockers or actual Amazon employees manning the desks.

Amazon@Purdue_1

This initial location is just the start: Amazon plans a second physical desk elsewhere on campus this Spring, and it also plans to explained free one-day shipping for Purdue textbooks specifically to all students once that expansion takes place.

Amazon’s gambit here is a smart one: Trade a small portion of revenue to the school in order to secure the locations, as well as the school branding and close curriculum placement. But more than those, it also becomes almost a convenience store with near-infinite stock and selection for the students it serves, giving them little reason to wander beyond the campus grounds to brick-and-mortar retail for all but the most specialized items.

Convenience, price competition and a healthy dose of school pride make this a strong offering from Amazon for students, and could influence shopping behavior throughout the lives of the students who use it, depending on the experience. Amazon also already has relationships with UC Davis and the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with plans to expand, so don’t expect this to be the extent of its campus retail ambitions.