Amazon to offer wider selection, more convenience for Prime service in Singapore

Amazon to offer wider selection, more convenience for Prime service in Singapore

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is seen on the door of an Amazon Books retail store in New York
FILE PHOTO: The logo of Amazon is seen on the door of an Amazon Books retail store in New York City, US, Feb 14, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

SINGAPORE: Amazon will invest in widening the selection of offerings and making online shopping more convenient for members of its two-year-old Prime service in Singapore.

“We certainly listened to members and heard several things,” Amazon Prime’s vice president Jamil Ghani told CNA on Wednesday (Dec 11).

“One is that they want even more selection. Two, they want a broader range of delivery options.”

To meet these demands, Amazon will be “investing across the board” to expand its domestic offerings on the “ultra fast” Prime Now delivery service app, as well as its range of international goods.

Prime Video and gaming service Twitch Prime, which Prime members have access to, will also see more popular global content.

“Our strategy at Amazon is to offer customers the broadest and the deepest selection … We will also continue investing on making our service more convenient and faster,” said Mr Ghani.

Amazon launched its Prime membership programme for Singapore at end-2017, offering perks such as free shipping, access to Prime Now’s “ultra-fast” delivery service via a mobile app, as well as entertainment content for a monthly fee.

Some users, however, have lamented the range of products and services available here.

Amazon has since taken steps to address that, including the launch of its local online marketplace Amazon.sg in October which adds “millions of products”. But some local consumers feel that more can be done.

READ: Amazon launches bigger local online store in Singapore

Mr Ghani acknowledged that: “One common comment is the difference between Amazon.sg and Amazon.com in the US. We know Singaporean customers have a long history of very active shopping, particularly from Amazon.com.”

The aim is to make Amazon.sg the “preferred destination for Singaporeans within Amazon” eventually but he admitted that this will take time as local operations have just started.

“We are just getting started … We have been investing in a steady march since 2017 and we will continue to do that,” Mr Ghani told CNA.

“By investing in Prime, Prime Now, Amazon.sg (and) bringing in more local selection, deals and sales events, we hope to earn the trust and engagement of Singaporean customers with the local site.”

The company has also improved on its operations after drawing lessons from a chaotic Prime Now launch in 2017 when overwhelming demand stalled deliveries.

In fact, the team is now “setting world records on efficiency”, according to Mr Ghani.

“They are processing more packages per building than anywhere else in the world and they are exporting those learnings to other locations in urban centres around the world.

“So that's one learning that not only benefited the Singapore business, but it's benefiting our business around the world,” he said.

READ: In pictures: How Amazon Prime Now plans to deliver on its 2-hour promise

Amazon recently added a second fulfilment centre here and will "continue investing on the people side".

It will have to contend with a tight labour market in Singapore and increased competition from rivals for the same pool of workers, but Mr Ghani said the scale of Amazon’s business gives it a “compelling” case when attracting talent.

Asked about reports on Amazon workers staging protests against work conditions in some parts of the world, he reiterated that the US tech titan offers “a very attractive employment experience” from workers at its fulfilment centres to staff at its corporate headquarters.

“We take very seriously the conditions and invest heavily. In the US, for example, we've led the way on increasing minimum salaries. We have one of the most aggressive opportunities for folks to retrain and further their professional development … I can say with quite a bit of conviction that we offer a fantastic place for folks to make careers.”

“PLEASANTLY SURPRISED” BY GROWTH IN SINGAPORE

With the myriad of players, competition is stiff in Singapore’s e-commerce market but Mr Ghani said Amazon has been “pleasantly surprised” by growth thus far.

The company on Wednesday released its "Best of Prime 2019" report which highlighted top purchases by Prime members and membership trends.

Sign-ups for the Prime service over the last 12 months in Singapore have outperformed that of 2017 and 2018, according to Mr Ghani.

Orders made on its local Prime Now mobile app have also seen seeing the highest year-on-year growth, compared to other markets that also offer the quick delivery service.

“Growth is accelerating,” he said.

READ: Commentary: The future of Singapore e-commerce is in brick and mortar

Currently, the Amazon Prime membership costs S$2.99 a month – the introductory offer price it said would be available for a “limited period” at the launch in 2017. 

On whether this price is here to stay, Mr Ghani would only say that Amazon focuses on delivering value for its customers though like any business, it periodically assess its operational costs.

He also declined comment on whether Singapore’s upcoming implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on imported digital services will mean changes for its membership price plans.

“(I’m) not the best person to comment on this very recent and fast moving GST development, but what I can tell you is that Amazon pays all of its taxes that it is liable for all around the world.”

Source: CNA/sk

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