Amazon Australia was touted, pre-launch, as a high-speed mass-transit hype train of cheap prices, fast delivery and traditional retail death. Instead, it has been more like a coal-fire locomotive, slowly gathering steam since it's early December launch last year. All the talk early was that it was a disappointment, but how true is that now? And what can we expect from Amazon Australia in 2018?
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?
Launch Was Big
After speculation that seemed like it would never end, there was a lot of hype when Amazon Australia launched. We weren't so kind on it here at Lifehacker, and some of the mainstream news sites certainly didn't hold back. Gerry Harvey pretended like he didn't care at all, really and called it a "lame duck".
However, Amazon were pleased - and stated that it was the largest order volume for a first day country launch that the company had seen in its history. The hype was that big, then there was some disappointment, but Amazon were happy - and it seems consumers did flock to the hot chip known as 'bargains'.
Amazon's line of voice-controlled smart speakers and gizmos made their way to Australia earlier in the year and launched with some discounted pricing. Sales information is scant, but in the US, the Alexa-enabled devices reportedly sold in the millions over the Christmas period. As they've launched shortly after the big sales ended in Australia, it'll be interesting to see how sales of the device are going - with smart speakers likely to be a huge growth category for Amazon in 2018.
In the fight between Google, Amazon and Apple to take control of your home, there are some clear battle-lines being drawn. Over the last week, I've been using The Amazon Echo - a cylindrical speaker and microphone array that responds to my voice to do all sorts of interesting things. Here's my journey so far and how it fits into my quest to assemble an array for smart home devices that will make my home operate more smoothly.
Where The Bloody Hell Is Prime?
Not since Lara Bingle famously bellow "Where the bloody hell are ya?" have we had a question linger so. Amazon Prime really is the game-changer, the Thanos-and-the-Infinity-Stones-end-game, the killer feature of Amazon's US service that helped them grow to the titanic scale they've reached today. As a subscription service overseas, it allows users to access free, fast shipping and subscriptions to Amazon Prime video and Twitch Prime, in addition to early access to deals.
At launch, Australia was told Prime would be "coming soon", which is nondescript enough to mean "any time after today", and the most recent reports state that it is coming mid-2018. Last year, Amazon saw a huge amount of traffic surge during the strong sales period of December last year just after launch. Some of that was hype, for sure, but it shows people are clamouring for other options when shopping online and Amazon's name is one of the biggest.
With Prime still to launch, Amazon should track even higher, making it easier to shop for everyday items (dishwashing, cleaning, nappies etc) that you would usually go to the supermarket for.
Still No Wishlists
It doesn't appear that there is any timeline for this, at this stage with an Amazon spokesperson telling Lifehacker "Unfortunately we have no plans at this stage to feature wish list functionality in AU. That’s not to say we won’t have it in the future." Damn.
In the US, wishlists are a core part of the experience and fall under the Account & Lists tab on the homepage. They are useful for creating gift registries and keeping track of what you've got your eye on. It ain't a dealbreaker, but why not have a feature like that available to Australian users?
There ARE Good Deals
Amazon Australia are steadily building a platform that provides good value for Australian consumers. More and more deals are coming through each week that are worth looking at and it seems that they are rotating these relatively often. Every morning, Lifehacker puts together a daily deals post and we've seen that Amazon usually has something worth looking at - it might not be for everyone, but it's contributing.
Early on, some of the prices - for lack of a better word - sucked. But that had a lot to do with the Amazon Marketplace, where third party sellers would sell and ship their own products using the Amazon UI. With Fulfilment By Amazon now well and truly entrenched in Australia, allowing these third-party sellers to use Amazon as a UI and distribution platform, those high prices have come back down a little.
When Amazon ships products from its South Dandenong Warehouse in Melbourne, the prices are really good and often, the best price online. However, it appears there are still far too many items that they don't have. More than that, AmazonBasics hasn't quite achieved the same level of notoriety here that it has overseas. If you're looking for cheap cables and knick-knacks, that's where to start - just give us some cheap batteries too!
Aussies Using Amazon US
There's still a strong enough reason for Australians to use the American Amazon site. For instance, just yesterday, this Seagate drive popped up on the US site for USD$139. Our exchange rate may not be great, but factoring other costs in, this will be about $200 down under. To grab one from, say eBay, you're looking at upwards of $300, without even factoring potential shipping prices in.
At present, it's still worth looking at Amazon Australia and Amazon US as two separate entities. There's no guarantee that the Australian site will have the 'world's cheapest price', so factor that in when shopping online.
Aussies Using eBay
Though it appears eBay is now offering 20% off at select stores at least once a week (perhaps part of the Amazon Effect), eBay remains the leader in Australian e-commerce with a huge share of monthly website visits topping out at the 90 million mark. By comparison, most recent statistics for Amazon show they're building up to around 12 million.
The Elephant In The Amazon
Only last week, a report by The Verge centred around James Bloodworth's undercover work at an Amazon warehouse in the UK, suggested that workers in some Amazon warehouses forego bathroom breaks and urinate in bottles to meet the demands imposed on them. Amazon's fulfilment centres and Amazon head honcho Jeff Bezos have copped a fair share of criticism based on the working conditions but he has maintained that these criticisms are unfounded. On top of that , the US based National Council for Occupational Safety and Health announced last week that they'd put Amazon on their list of the most dangerous places to work.
What have your experiences been with Amazon? Finding it useful or still shopping elsewhere? What do you hope changes?