It’s now even easier to shop online in Singapore, thanks to the launch of Amazon‘s Prime Now service in the city-state.
The online retailer’s first foray into Southeast Asia begins with one of the most advanced cities in the world, and the company plans to entice customers by dangling free two-hour shipping for orders above S$40 ($29).
While Amazon’s debut has long been anticipated — rumors were swirling as of last year — the Singapore move comes with empty stores in malls on the rise, and the highly competitive online retail space has seen big players such as China’s Alibaba swoop in to buy out struggling local online supermarket retailer Redmart through e-commerce site Lazada, which it owns a 90 percent stake.
The information about Amazon’s Prime Now service comes from the Prime Now app, which appears to have been released ahead of an official announcement.
Depending on your location in Singapore, Amazon will also offer one-hour delivery, though this will come with an additional flat S$9.99 ($7.35) fee. Shipping hours will be from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. The service is free for now, unlike in the US or the UK, which requires a user to have an Amazon Prime membership.
“Convenience commerce is the right move for urban populations like Singapore’s,” said Lawrence Cheok, IDC senior research manager, citing examples like Tesco Homeplus in Korea and Chinese online grocer Yihaodian on how it would work.
“With a timed-window, same-day delivery, it’s also a good experiment to test out Amazon’s operations in the region,” he added.
Cheok thinks that Singapore is not a profitable market for the company — it makes for a good launch pad and testbed, but doesn’t have the scale Amazon needs for making a good return. What Amazon could do, though, is use Singapore as a hub for general merchandise while also experimenting with how to expand throughout Southeast Asia, a market that’s the next big thing after China and India.
But success will be tricky, according to Cheok, as rival Alibaba already has an advantage by buying local online retailer Lazada.
“More importantly, localization and country adaptation is one important success factor to win in Southeast Asia. Amazon has the history and mentality of ‘doing it my way,’ while Alibaba has a better track record of understanding cultural differences and leveraging partnerships to close these gaps,” he said.
There’s no word yet on whether Amazon will be bringing in its Amazon Prime subscription service as well as its other Amazon products such as the Echo and Echo Dot to Singapore. For now, shoppers from Singapore are still able to shop at Amazon’s international site and enjoy free shipping for orders above $125.
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