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Amazon’s Next Big Target: Colleges?

The college move-in process can be chaotic.

However, onerous college move-in days may soon be a thing of the past thanks to a well-known name in delivery services: Amazon.

Fortune reported that Amazon is set to open “Campus Pick-up Points” at three universities: the University of California at Berkeley, the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Cincinnati.  The new locations, which allow students to pick up Amazon orders from a fulfillment associate or from a coded-entry storage locker,  join existing ones at Purdue University and the University of California at Davis and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in a serious push to not only improve fulfillment metrics, but also to increase Amazon’s visibility with a young consumer base already familiar with online shopping.

UMass freshman Matthew Provost told MassLive that ordering and picking up his semester’s worth of textbooks was as easy as any other transaction with Amazon.

“I told the app when I’d like to pick it up and I came on down,” Provost said. “It was easy. The box was right there in the locker.”

While Amazon logistics don’t hurt when it comes to satisfying college-aged consumers, The University of Connecticut’s Daily Campus explained how an uptick in Amazon shipments to college mailrooms has caused something of a traffic jam in the last mile of the supple chain. Logan Trimble, executive director of building services at UConn, told the Daily Campus that the old-fashioned design of most mailrooms doesn’t mesh with what customers are ordering nowadays, and the inconsistencies are causing serious problems.

“The student mailrooms in the residence halls were designed primarily for mail delivery rather than packages and were originally constructed for the convenience of residents,” Trimble said “But over the years, the standard  ‘letter’ has been replaced by package deliveries and we are seeing a record number of UPS, FedEx and USPS packages. We have been discussing the possibility of creating central locations for sorting, but also discussing distribution systems to get the packages delivered sooner.”

Most universities – especially publicly funded ones – may loath spending money to overhaul their mail delivery infrastructure, which may be why Amazon has found so many willing partners for its Campus Pick-up Point program. After all, if an increase in orders from Amazon is the critical issue for college mailrooms, Amazon itself would seem to be the perfect fix.

In some cases, Amazon is going even further than just facilitating easier shipments. UMass actually gave Amazon the full rights to run its campus bookstore in addition to its logistics support, and UC Davis and Purdue both operate their online bookstore operations through a co-branded marketplace with Amazon, Publishers’ Weekly reported.

“We believe presenting our students with many choices is better for them as consumers than were they to only have one choice,” Jason Lorgan, director of UC Davis’ campus bookstores, told PW. “Amazon can provide our campus community with hundreds of thousands more items than we could stock on campus. We believe our model of a university-owned-and-operated store, combined with our Amazon program, creates a model that is more advantageous to our students than either model on its own.”

Many of Amazon’s recent moves have been about adding convenience as a value to its products and services, and its expansion into college delivery services and bookstores seems to be providing students – and administrators – with exactly that.

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