When an 800-pound gorilla enters the arena
So, the talk of the town (well, at least the town I hang out in) is the launch of Amazon Prime Now in Singapore. Despite all the news reports out there (here’s ours), many people are still confused about what it is.
Which means… it’s FAQ time!
1.) What is Amazon Prime Now?
Amazon sells stuff. Prime Now is a same-day delivery service that the company offers when you buy stuff from its Prime Now catalog.
2.) How do I buy from Prime Now?
You can’t order through a webpage. If you go to the Amazon Singapore website, you will end up at the Prime Now intro page.
The fact that there’s a www.amazon.com.sg suggests that Prime isn’t far away.
3.) Huh? What’s Prime?
Amazon Prime is Amazon’s paid membership program. In the U.S., it costs US$99 a year, and members get benefits such as free 2-day shipping, access to popular movies and TV shows, on-demand music streaming, access to thousands of e-books, unlimited photo storage, and more.
To be specific, Amazon has many shipping perks for Prime members in the U.S., in addition to the aforementioned free 2-day shipping. In thousands of cities and towns, there’s an option for free same-day delivery. And finally, in about 30 cities, it offers free 2-hour delivery on daily essentials and groceries. This last bit is called Prime Now, and was what Amazon launched in Singapore yesterday, July 27.
In short, Amazon has:
- launched a native e-shopping platform in Singapore,
- launched its most advanced delivery service for this platform,
- all before offering its membership program here.
4.) So Prime Now is free?
Yes. Prime Now is free to use at the moment without a Prime membership.
Going by that logic, it will become “not free” when Prime launches in Singapore. Remember, Prime Now is supposed to be an exclusive benefit for Prime members.
5.) Will Amazon Prime come to Singapore?
An Amazon spokesperson told me that Amazon Prime will come to Singapore soon, but stopped short of revealing in what shape or form.
Many people want Amazon to launch its Prime membership here for one reason: the ability to buy products from the gazillions of products on Amazon U.S. But I think we should be realistic here. It seems more likely that when Prime launches in Singapore, we’d still be restricted to the Amazon Global Store, which Amazon launched in late 2014 to cater to its international audience. For those unaware, Amazon currently already provides an AmazonGlobal Program that offers free shipping to Singapore if an order amounts to at least US$125. As such, perhaps the perk for Singapore Prime members would be faster cross-border shipping and/or a lower minimum spend requirement. But hey, that’s just my own speculation.
6.) What delivery options are there in Prime Now?
Prime Now offers:
- Free 2-hour delivery with a minimum order of S$40
- S$5.99 fee for 2-hour delivery for orders less than S$40
- S$9.99 fee for 1-hour delivery (any order amount)
- Deliveries from 10 AM to 10 PM daily
7.) Can Amazon really deliver so fast?
The whole idea of Prime Now is fast delivery, and to do that it needs to first have the goods near to their customers. For this, Amazon has leased a 100,000-square foot warehouse at the Mapletree Logistics Hub off Toh Guan Road East, which according to the company is the largest urban Prime Now fulfillment center they currently have globally. Now, Singapore is pretty small, so I’d say the proximity issue is covered. Take note though, while the two-hour delivery option is applicable to most parts of the Singapore mainland and Sentosa, the one-hour option is only for supported areas. The best way to find out is to enter your postal code in the app and create an order to reveal the options.
The other part of the equation is the processing and actual delivery. The technology that Amazon uses at its fulfillment centers are legendary, so incidents like servers being overwhelmed or customers unknowingly ordering an item that’s out of stock are unlikely to happen.
That said, the key selling point of Prime Now is its super-fast delivery, and this is where things may not go according to customers’ wishes. You see, the items that you’ve ordered are still picked up from shelves by humans, packed and sorted by humans, and finally, delivered to your doorstep by humans (in a Ninja Van). In an ideal world, if 50,000 of us buy from Prime Now at the same time, all hoping to get our orders in the next hour, we all should be able to book the slot.
But we don’t live in an ideal world, because it’s super unlikely that Amazon has that many people at the warehouse or that many couriers on standby. This probably explains why many people couldn't get the time slot they wanted yesterday and even today, with some couldn't even place an order due to delivery being unavailable, a telltale sign that the couriers were fully booked. Some were able to place orders for next-day delivery, but that's also weird, because that means it's not very Prime Now-y.
It's a learning curve for even the 800-pound gorilla. We can only hope these are launch day woes. On hindsight, didn't Amazon think this would happen when it decided to offer Prime Now sans a Prime membership?
8.) Prime Now vs. Lazada/Redmart - which is better?
According to Amazon, Prime Now offers “tens of thousands” of items, including groceries, household and home essentials, baby, beauty, and electronics products, toys, and more. According to this Business Times article, it has more like 20,000+ unique items.
On the other hand, Redmart is said to carry over 50,000 items. Factor in Lazada (which owns Redmart) for items not found on the online supermarket, the total number will be even greater. So yes, for the numbers game, the Lazada+Redmart combo has the upper hand. And for those unaware, Lazada has this S$28.80 LiveUp membership program that offers benefits such as free delivery, rebates, and discounts from the e-commerce website, Redmart, Netflix, Uber, UberEats, and Taobao Collection.
Of course, no one platform has everything under the sun, and it ultimately boils down to which has the item that you want, or if both have it, which offers the better price, convenience, etc. For example, Amazon sells eggs but not sourced from Seng Choon, but Redmart does. So if you only eat Seng Choon eggs, Redmart wins. However, if you prefer AmazonBasics-branded electronics accessories over their Taobao equivalent, it’s obvious that you’ll find them on Prime Now. Looking for cooked food? Deliveroo or Foodpanda is a better bet.
In essence, there will always be things that you’d find on Prime Now that aren’t on Lazada or Redmart, and vice versa. Not to mention inventory, prices, and offers change so frequently for such online shopping platforms.
So be a smart shopper, use both, and you’re the winner.
9.) Are there any must-not-miss offers on Prime Now now?
To entice users to try out Prime Now, Amazon is now offering a S$10 discount for your first order when you use the code ‘10PRIMENOW’ at checkout.
Alternatively, if you’re going to pay with a Visa card, you can use the code ‘VISA20’ to get S$20 off your first order. It goes without saying that the “best deal” now is to order something or a few things to meet the S$40 minimum order requirement and apply the Visa code. A 50% discount, if you will.
Update, July 29, 7 AM: We've heard from readers that both S$10 and S$20 codes can no longer be used. But some still managed to apply them. Moral of the story: No harm trying when checking out.
Update, July 28, 2:55 PM: Looks like the S$20 Visa code is no longer valid. That's... sad.
10.) Any community resources to find out about deals?
Of course! There are two threads in our forums that you should bookmark right now:
11.) Is this a sponsored article?
No. We are avid online shoppers, too.