Amazon Elbows in on Back-to-School Season

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Amazon Elbows in on Back-to-School Season

By Patrycja Malinowska - 09/19/2017

As it was finalizing its $13.7 billion deal to purchase Whole Foods Market, was also quietly ringing in back-to-school sales.

The retailer got a running start with its Prime Day sale in early July. In the first two weeks of the month, Amazon grew back-to-school sales 35% compared to last year, according to One Click Retail. The e-commerce research firm indicates that figure is nearly four times greater than last year’s bump and suggests a growth potential of more than 80% for the full season – for electronics products such as laptops and tablets as well as office supplies, youth apparel and footwear.

Instant Pickup

To keep momentum going halfway through the season, Amazon unveiled a new service that dramatically shortens fulfillment time at five of the 22 staffed pickup locations it operates on college campuses across the U.S. – Los Angeles and Berkeley, California; Columbus, Ohio; College Park, Maryland; and Atlanta.

Free for Prime and Prime Student members, the service offers a curated selection of daily essentials that are available for “Instant Pickup” in two minutes or less. The eligible lineup spans several hundred fast-selling items at each location, including snacks, beverages, personal care products, phone chargers and tech essentials such as Amazon’s Echo, Fire and Kindle devices. Shoppers place orders via Amazon’s mobile application and receive barcodes to access the items, which get loaded into lockers by Amazon employees.

Amazon didn’t specify a pricing structure for Instant Pickup items, though Reuters reported they might be cheaper than standard Amazon orders from time to time.

Back-to-School Essentials

On its website, Amazon offered a “Back to School Essentials” shop that visitors could browse by grade, trends, popular categories and deals. There also were items for teachers. A home-page banner ad and a “Savings on Back to School” link prominently positioned to the right of Amazon’s search bar linked to the destination. Within the shop, display ads additionally:

  • promised Amazon Prime credit card holders 15% back on select essentials – 10% more than the everyday 5% cardholders already earn.
  • directed visitors to Amazons’ TenMarks Education business for personalized online math and enrichment programs.
  • promoted Amazon Business memberships for institutional pricing for educators.

Offline, Amazon directed shoppers to the destination by using promotional packing tape on delivery boxes that boasted of the ability to “Find everything on your list” at

Brand Activations

Among the various brands activating with Amazon for the season:

RB’s Lysol secured a back-to-school-themed brand showcase within The destination hosted the brand’s back-to-school TV spot and let visitors browse essentials for school or college. It also offered entry into a sweepstakes awarding a $2,000 gift card and a year’s supply of wipes for the winner’s school. Ads running within Amazon’s “Back to School Essentials” shop linked to the page, promising savings of up to 20% on products that kill “back-to-school germs.”

Johnson & Johnson used a display ad running on websites such as that directed consumers to a manufacturer showcase on A leaderboard ad on the page touted free shipping for Prime members with purchase of five qualifying products via Prime Pantry. The creative tied in to back-to-school season with a “send them off with confidence” message, and the page offered tabs for products “for your teen” and “for your little one.”

PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay ran a “When School’s In, Parents Win” display ad on websites such as The ad linked to an e-commerce page for various variety packs under a leaderboard touting the manufacturer’s national back-to-school sweepstakes, which awarded a tropical vacation, home entertainment system and other prizes.

Newell Brands ran a display on that linked to a “College Prep 101” e-commerce page grouping items by “featured deals, “college life” and “dorm essentials.”

Kellogg Co. ran a display ad on websites such as inviting consumers to “be a lunchbox hero” and directing them to an Amazon page to “shop now” for snack-sized packaged of brands including Rice Krispies Treats, Cheez-It, Pringles and Pop-Tarts.

Cause Marketing

An ad within the Essentials shop infused Amazon’s activity with a cause element, inviting shoppers to “fill a backpack for a child in need” by donating to UNICEF USA with Amazon Pay. The donation landing page indicated what supplies could be purchased with varying donation amounts, from 200 pencils for $6 to 40 exercise books, 80 pencils and five textbooks for $46.

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