Introduction: Evolving needs in the education sector
The global pandemic has changed lives in ways in which we had never imagined. The education sector has not been spared from this disruption either. Students spanning all age groups have seen their lives change as they have had to adapt to virtual learning. Parents have had to adjust their schedules to accommodate this shift to distance learning. Instructors from preschools through universities have had to adapt by offering online courses. Educators have had to coordinate with their institutions and students to teach virtually. We here at Amazon Business have had to adapt as well to meet these evolving needs. Recognizing this shift early on when the pandemic hit, we launched a Distance Learning Hub to enable institutions of all sizes to obtain critical learning supplies, such as shelf-stable snacks, instructional materials, and technological devices.
If there is one lesson educational institutions1, educators, students, and businesses like ours have learned from this experience, it is that we need to adapt quickly to changing circumstances. Even as we slowly return to either the “old” normal or the “new” normal, we have recognized the need to offer customized solutions that will help meet your short-term and long-term purchasing needs and set your institutions up for success during usual and unusual times.
Today we are announcing the launch of Amazon Business Solutions for Educators —a one-stop shop for your educators’ purchasing needs as well as software tools to reshape buying within your organization.
In our conversations with education customers, we recognize that two key objectives are: cost savings and compliance with organizational purchasing policies. Our solution is geared toward addressing those objectives as described below.
Savings from supplier consolidation and access to a wide selection
Many educational institutions, particularly schools that were staring at potential budget cuts in 2021–2022, have been given a lifeline by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The plan funds K-12 institutions, state agencies, higher education establishments, and private institutions to address learning loss over the past year and to put measures in place to resume in-person teaching. The law encourages spending the funds by 2024 in areas such as educational technology, tools to combat learning loss, equipment to meet new public health standards, school facility repairs to reduce virus transmission, etc. When it comes to purchasing, a recent study found that colleges and universities spend around 90 percent of their total budget on a few key vendors. The remaining 10 percent of the budget is distributed to around one thousand separate vendors . In fact, around two-thirds of vendors account for less than $1,000 in purchasing from each institution per year2. Hence, it is optimal that educational institutions consolidate their spending to save time and simplify purchasing operations and reconciliation. They can take advantage of Amazon Business’s wide selection of suppliers (of which, many are small, local, and diverse) to purchase items ranging from IT equipment to sanitation supplies to bus parts from a single source.
“You cannot think of Amazon Business as one vendor, they are a bridge to other suppliers. I'm waiting for the day I can buy school buses on Amazon Business.” —J.T. Hodges, Coordinator of Purchasing, Franklin County Public Schools
To make buying from Amazon Business even more convenient for educators, we have now launched a dedicated storefront, which offers a comprehensive selection of items educators need to be successful in their mission to teach students. We have negotiated with vendors on your behalf to offer a 10 percent discount on 53 million items. Educators in your organizations can discover curated supplies by age group and view popular products that have been purchased by other educators.
In addition, your educators can save more when they buy more from a selection of over 60 million items with eligible Quantity Discounts. These discounts apply when they buy at least two of the same item at the same time.
“I managed to cut my monthly expense budget by at least 40% a month with bulk ordering—95% of all equipment and supplies I have been looking for I have been able to find [and order on Amazon Business] for a reasonable price and with good quality.” —Tessie Ragan, Owner and Teacher, Perfect Start Preschool
Savings through a free account and easy onboarding
Many educators seek easy access to a one-stop purchasing solution, such as Amazon Business. Once your institution opens a free Amazon Business account, you can onboard as many educators as you want across multiple locations.
If your district or institution handles purchases through an e-procurement system, we can help integrate that system using Amazon Business Punchout so your educators can obtain unfettered access and you can still maintain purchasing control. Amazon Business integrates with over one hundred leading procure-to-pay purchasing (P2P) systems as well as homegrown ones. To further enhance the security of your operations and offer educators easy access, you can opt for single-sign on (SSO).
“In nine months, we have successfully onboarded 1,175 departmental users on to the centralized Amazon Business account, all of them having access to the punchout catalog for ordering through Amazon within the university's e-procurement system. The adoption rate of campus buyers to Amazon Business is approximately 85%.” —Mary Helmick, Director of Procurement, Virginia Tech
Savings from partnership with cooperatives
We recognize that public institutions have strict compliance requirements, and to minimize the burden of such requirements, some might purchase through cooperatives, such as OMNIA Partners and PEPPM. Amazon Business has been awarded contracts with OMNIA and other leading cooperatives so you can continue to have access to our wide selection through your cooperative contracts while at the same time reducing costs and burden.
“There really isn’t enough time to do a competitive process for all the commodities that we purchase. Using OMNIA Partners when we first learned about Amazon Business was really exciting and now knowing that we didn’t need to worry about thresholds or aggregated totals for purchasing we felt very confident in moving forward with OMNIA Partners contract with Amazon Business.” —John Gwin, Chief Finance Officer, Shelby County Schools
Savings from Business Prime
Considering the potential large volume of purchases, your districts and institutions can also save more by enrolling in our paid annual membership program called Business Prime. The most immediate benefit is savings on shipping costs. You can get free same-day delivery on eligible orders, free one-day shipping on millions of items, and unlimited free two-day shipping on over 100 million more items. Now, for a limited time (until August 13, 2021*), you can get 50 percent off on your annual membership fee for the first year for the top three tiers of the Business Prime program. In addition, you have access to Spend Visibility dashboards through Business Prime that help identify purchasing patterns in a visually appealing manner to enable your organization to use insights and make quick purchasing decisions.
*Special discounts up to 50% off of annual membership are available to eligible education institutions. Promotional terms and conditions.
Flexible payment options and efficient cash flow management
Cash flow is important not only for businesses but also for educational institutions and districts. Pay by Invoice enables eligible organizations to buy now and pay later with 30-day interest-free payment terms on Pay by Invoice purchases. If you are a Business Prime member, you can get extended payment terms of up to 45 or 60 days, depending on the membership tier. In addition to assisting in efficient cash-flow management, this feature also enables easier reconciliation with corresponding purchase order numbers.
Amazon Business can save institutions even more money by helping set up appropriate guardrails to control unchecked spending. The below section offers ways in which Amazon Business helps drive compliance.
Empower educators while maintaining purchasing guardrails
Amazon Business account administrators at educational institutions are empowered to define different types of buying policies. Administrators can identify preferred products or sellers (including sellers with certain credentials, such as woman owned, minority owned, veteran owned, etc.), block restricted sellers or categories, and define spending limits for their buyers using a feature called Buying Policies and Approvals An administrator can assign approvers for each of these policies, so whenever an educator seeks to purchase items that require approvals, the process kicks in automatically. This process is all done online thus saving time for educators. This also ensures that only the necessary orders are escalated, which frees up the administrators’ time to focus on high-value activities.
“With Amazon Business, teachers create a list on their classroom computer and submit. Workflows immediately take over, streamlining approvals. Teachers get exactly what they need, and they get it in two days.” —Bradley Sponaugle, Assistant Treasurer, Berkeley County School
In addition, if you are a Business Prime member, you can take advantage of Guided Buying to steer your educators toward categories and brands your institution recommends. This guidance encourages buyers to purchase items from your preferred categories and sellers, such as local or certified diverse sellers.
Avoid excessive spend by allocating preapproved budgets
School and district leaders have told us that school funding is often spent on a first-come-first-serve funding basis, which results in educators frontloading requests at the beginning of school year due to the fear of losing funds entirely. Amazon Business’ Budget Management tool enables administrators to allocate time-bound funds to educators, so they can use funding when they need it and know how much they have available.
“Before Amazon Business had the Budget Management tool, we asked our end users to put everything they want to buy on a spreadsheet to track budgets and balances and we would compare the spreadsheet with their orders before approving them. Now we can rely on Amazon Business’ Blanket Purchase Orders to track the budgets and run reports for each school. It’s simple, easy, and fast to use, and it helps us hold our end users accountable and responsible for their budgets.”—Lou Anne Castillo, Purchasing and Capital Projects Supervisor, Franklin-McKinley School District (CA)
Speaking with educators across the country, we recognize that they are inspired by their passion to unleash the individual potential of every student. However, many find it challenging to get the right materials at the right time and within their specified budget to facilitate the kind of education they’d like to impart to those students. We are committed to helping you enable your educators to address that challenge with our new Amazon Business Solutions for Educators. In the US, we currently serve 80 of the 100 largest education organizations, and we’d like to extend our services to more educational organizations of all sizes to help them further their mission. Speak with a customer advisor to learn how Amazon Business can empower your institution.
“With Amazon Business, we have new opportunities to cut costs. We can potentially return $154k annually to the classroom. This allows us to do better for our students, and that’s what we care most about. For every dollar we save, that's a dollar returned to the classroom.”—Rick Gay, Director of Procurement Services, Spring Branch Independent School District
 In the context of this blog, we will use the term institutions broadly to refer to schools, colleges, and any place of study.
 National Association of Educational Procurement. “Benchmarking Spend Analytics and Procurement Savings Opportunities in Higher Education.” NAEP, 2013.
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