On December 5 2017, Amazon Australia opened its virtual doors, in the dead of night. After weeks of speculation and rumour, credit cards were unleashed and bargains were ready to be hunted. Amazon didn't make any huge promises, but Aussies expected a lot from the 800-pound gorilla once they landed on our shore.
One month on, how does Amazon Australia look?
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos famously uses the line "It's Still Day One!" as a mantra to drive Amazon to constantly be better, yet it feels appropriate for how the service has currently been tracking in Australia. Amazon Australia's first day in the country didn't send local retail into meltdown and now, some six weeks later, it doesn't seem like they've come all that far.
Perhaps that is a function of the hype that was built up before Amazon landed in the country: Disappointment was basically inevitable. However, there's also a distinct difference in Amazon's US offering and their Australian offering. Yes, the plan was always to roll-out their retail offering over time, but because Australians have been using the US site for so long, the differences are glaringly obvious.
Let's break down Amazon Australia, one month in.
Amazon Australia's launch strategy was a closely-guarded secret and as the November sales period ramped up and big sales days came and went without any word from Amazon, the official launch date seemed to get further and further away.
Only hours before doors opened, news began trickling out that Amazon was gearing up for a launch on December 5 and at midnight, the site became fully functional.
Amazon Australia was here.
The highly secretive launch seemed counter-intuitive to Amazon's push to be a 'disruptor' and to shake up the retail sector in Australia. This is Amazon - one of the most successful companies in the world - but they chose to enter an entirely new market with little to no fanfare. Media outlets were more than happy to draw attention to the launch (ours included) and with the collective weight of an entire nation's expectations on their shoulders, Amazon was always going to find it difficult to please everyone.
With one month under their belt, launch day seems a long way away - and things have certainly improved. However, there are still some big hurdles they'll need to overcome to win over the average Aussie customer.
Competitive pricing was always going to make or break Amazon in Australia and the initial offering was ... decidedly average.
One month on, Amazon Australia's pricing is still under fire.
One of the most pressing issues going forward is helping consumers understand the difference between Amazon's own stock and the Amazon Marketplace. The Marketplace allows independent sellers and stores to list their products on Amazon and set their own prices. Generally, Marketplace prices are higher than you would find if Amazon were stocking the product themselves. This is a crucial difference that is still not fully understood by new users and contributes to a lot of the angst that has been seen with Amazon pricing so far.
This morning, Amazon finally launched its online shopping portal in Australia, putting an end to months of wild speculation and shopper anticipation. Unfortunately, the prices we're seeing aren't nearly as revolutionary as we were hoping. In fact, some of them are downright terrible.
A good example of this confusion can be seen with the LEGO First Order Heavy Assault Walker play set. Amazon are selling it at $188, which qualifies it for free delivery, but other sellers on the Amazon Marketplace such as Purple Turtle Toys and Matty's Playtime are offering the product for ~$200 and ~$235, respectively. Amazon's price is really good, whereas the two Marketplace prices aren't quite up to scratch. When the product is in stock with Amazon, there's no real issue, however, if Amazon was out of stock, the listed price would be much higher. This quirk of the Amazon UI can be confusing to new users and contributes to some of the discussions around poor pricing.
Bottom line: It's important to understand who is selling the product.
Free delivery is only available on eligible products from Amazon Australia and to qualify for it, you must spend over $49. If the product is sold by a third-party seller via Amazon, then it does not qualify for free shipping.
Shipping costs themselves are competitive - the price for priority shipping (next-day) is $10 in major capital cities, while Perth and other cities in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia have to pay $12. Regional areas are expected to pay $20 if they need the product within 1-3 business days. Amazon also offer expedited delivery which will see the product at your door in 2-3 business days for an extra $6.
However, Amazon state that free delivery will take between 3-7 business days to all major Australian cities and anywhere more regional will have to wait 7-10 business days. Personally, I've had little issue with shipping, predominantly buying products that Amazon stock such as dishwashing tablets, LEGO and shoes - but I live close to the Sydney CBD and have received all products within 4 days.
With shipping speeds being such a driving force for shopping online in the first place, this is one area that Amazon will look to improve upon over the coming year. The launch of Amazon Prime will go a long way to helping that.
Bottom line: Reliable and (reasonably) quick - but there's still room for improvement.
Amazon Prime is one of the website's biggest advantages in the US and other countries, allowing for free, fast shipping (even free same-day shipping), subscriptions to Amazon Prime Video and Twitch Prime plus exclusive discounts and early access to lightning deals.
Currently, the Australian Amazon homepage displays the header image above, allowing Aussie users to subscribe to email updates on when the service will be made available to Australian Amazon members. Amazon have not yet announced a specific date (or even a timeframe) for when Prime will launch in Australia, so until then you'll be paying each time you need a speedy delivery.
Bottom line: TBA
Unusually, Amazon Australia does not provide a 'wishlist' function. The wishlist function, on the US site, is exactly what it sounds like. It allows for Amazon customers to add products they want to a dedicated list they can go back to at a later date (come payday, for example.) Further to this, you can share your wishlist with friends and family and they can see exactly what you're looking to buy.
It's not a huge, Amazon-defining feature like Prime membership is, but it is one that customers who are used to the US site have been crying out for. Amazon Australia have not yet mentioned any plans to bring wishlists to Australia.
Bottom line: Please add wishlists, Amazon.
The launch of Amazon Australia was supposed to be a game-changing event that redefined retail pricing for the whole nation. Instead, its arrival went down like a huge wet fart.
The chief disappointment was price - but that's not all that left us feeling miffed. Here are six things we hated about Amazon Australia's launch.