Amazon Prime Now launches in Singapore
Online retail giant launches express delivery service here
Global online retail giant Amazon yesterday launched its Prime Now service that delivers purchases under two hours in Singapore. It marks Amazon's entry into South-east Asia.
Prime Now is an express delivery service for members of a programme known as Amazon Prime, although Singapore will have access to Prime Now without the membership requirement or fee for "a limited period".
The New Paper understands an announcement about the full suite of Amazon Prime's services here will be made later in the year.
The Prime Now service, available through its mobile app, delivers tens of thousands of products from its new 100,000 sq ft Fulfilment Centre - the largest Amazon Prime Now facility in the world - at Toh Guan Road East, in Jurong East.
Products, sourced from hundreds of local vendors and distributors, as well as imported from overseas, include electronics, home appliances, baby strollers, fitness wearables, beauty products and groceries ranging from fresh produce to bottled drinks.
For products to be delivered in two hours, customers need to pay a delivery fee of $5.99 for orders under $40. There is no fee for orders above $40.
A one-hour delivery service (at $9.99 per order) is also available for selected postal codes.
Deliveries take place between 10am and 10pm.
Employees in the warehouse locate and pick up items within minutes of an order, which are then sorted into batches to ensure the most efficient delivery route.
Deliveries are then made by Amazon's own fleet, as well as third-party drivers.
Prime Now also offers a 14-day return policy for its new and unopened products other than groceries - the same policy it uses in other countries.
Amazon's entry into South-east Asia comes as its global e-commerce rival from China, Alibaba, has been rapidly expanding in the region over the past year.
Here, Prime Now will also vie with online grocers Redmart and Honestbee, and supermarkets like NTUC FairPrice and Cold Storage.
Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran said at yesterday's launch that Amazon can create hundreds of jobs here over the next three years, and can serve as a valuable partner for retailers, local brands and individual merchants as it digitalises its operations.
The launch of Prime Now has also got Singaporeans excited.
Mr Loh Junwei, 29, a digital marketing executive, called Prime Now's two-hour delivery service a game changer.
But Ms Serene Tan, 31, a marketing manager, was sceptical of the quality of delivered products, particularly groceries.
"You can never tell how fresh the fruit or vegetables are until they are delivered, and by then, it may be too late," she said.
Experts: New service a boon for consumers
The arrival of Amazon's Prime Now express delivery service will make Singapore's retail industry even more competitive, experts told The New Paper.
Associate Professor Thompson Teo of the National University of Singapore Business School said increased competition would benefit consumers in the form of lower prices, more promotions and greater choices.
But brick-and-mortar retailers may now find themselves at risk of losing market share, said both Prof Teo and Mr Adrian Lee, research director at IT research firm Gartner.
Minister of Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran, the guest of honour at yesterday's Prime Now launch, said it is natural for smaller firms to be concerned when larger players enter the market.
But he added there are avenues of help, such as the SMEs Go Digital programme, which trains smaller firms in digitising their products, services and processes to stay relevant.
Mr Nicholas Kontopoulos, global vice-president of fast-growth markets at commerce and omni-channel solutions provider SAP Hybris, agreed that Amazon's arrival does not spell the end of brick-and-mortar shops here.
He said: "Although e-commerce has changed the game, an online-only approach will not be able to satisfy all consumers.
"Many still appreciate a more tangible experience that can be provided only through touching, feeling, and smelling the produce before purchase, and physical stores meet this instant gratification need," he said.
Transformation is key to survival, said both Mr Lee and Mr Kontopoulos.
Said Mr Kontopoulos: "If traditional grocers and stores are able to provide consumers with such an integrated, personalised user experience across all channels, they will have an advantage over web-only services."
The experts also said the Prime Now launch here reaffirmed the importance of South-east Asia for digital commerce, with Singapore chosen as a testbed for its tech-savvy, affluent citizens and accessibility to the rest of the region. - RONALD LOH