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Amazon's latest innovation is Amazon Prime Now - a delivery service for around 15,000 items which promises delivery slots within 1 to 2 hours. I’ve recently given it a try and was definitely pleased with the whole experience - from the ordering process right down to the delivery and unboxing.
In our previous blog post, we discussed how Amazon Prime Now could be a potential game changer in grocery and convenience shopping so feel free to give that a read for a bit more context.
In a nutshell, if you're an Amazon Prime customer, you can order products and get them delivered within a two hour delivery slot (for no charge as long as you spend over £30). If you'd like a one hour delivery slot then you're looking at an extra charge of £7.99.
So as a retail geek, I was naturally intrigued to see how this service would actually work from a consumer’s point of view. Last weekend seemed like a great time to test the service as we found ourselves, at the bank holiday weekend, running out of essential items like bread, milk and nappies. So instead of driving round to the local supermarket, I thought it be a great opportunity to give the delivery service a try.
As you’d expect, the experience using the Amazon Prime Now app is pretty straightforward.
First, you enter a postcode to make sure that the Amazon Prime Now service is available in your location - but after that, it's just a simple case of browsing through the available items.
The first thing that you'll notice is that the range is rather limited compared to what you may be used to at the supermarket. Having said that, you can probably find most of the items that you need. The only downside is that you may need to choose a premium brand as they do not currently offer an own brand choice on any of the items.
The app itself is easy to use but the search filtering is quite limited. It's not possible to filter down as precisely as I would expect for Amazon - which means searching in categories that have a large numbers of items in them and this can take some time.
In addition, there seems to be a range of typos in some of the product inventory which means typing and searching for information is not as simple as it could be. For example, searching for ‘poppadoms’ yielded no results. However, when I searched for Indian food, I found the item was located in the category but with a misspelling!
I think one of the key benefits of the service, compared to a standard grocery service, is the fact that you can add many non-grocery items to your shop as well. For example, when using ASDA or Tesco online, if you want to pick up a gift for a family friend, the range can be quite limited.
With Amazon (as you would expect), the range is quite extensive and you can pick up anything from books to electronics to Blu-Rays and games. You can even pick up the most mundane of items like a new mop and bucket!
What surprised me the most that was just how many popular items Amazon were able to provide to me within a two hour delivery slot. I remembered being quite impressed when the Prime Next Day delivery service came out in the UK, providing next day delivery on such a wide range of popular items.
But with Amazon Prime Now, this takes customer experience to a whole new level. Previously, where I may have needed an item on the same day, I would've turned to click-and-collect services from brands like Argos. Now it is highly possible that I will simply open up the Amazon Prime Now app, and check whether this is an item available for a two hour delivery window.
I can see this being particularly useful during the day at work when I might remember that I have to pick up a gift for a friend or family member but do not find the time during the day or later on in the evening to go shopping. If this is the case, I can order the item from my phone and choose for the order to be delivered either at work before I leave or to my home in the evening.
The checkout process is really easy. Once you have completed your basket, it's simply a case of selecting a delivery slot, choosing your delivery and billing address, selecting a payment method and hitting the order button.
One unusual feature that I did find in the app was that Amazon are suggesting that you provide a tip to your delivery driver. This is quite surprising as no other delivery app, such as Uber or Just-Eat, makes this suggestion. It will be interesting to see whether this feature remains as part of the Amazon Prime Now model and, if it does, whether the other delivery services will also introduce this feature as a way of paying and compensating delivery driver staff.
Within less than a minute, your order is complete and it then takes you to a page which allows you to track your order in real time. This is a really nice feature as it shows you where your order is being prepared and where your home is located - allowing you to track the movement of your order just as you would when hiring an Uber.
We chose a delivery slot between 6 PM and 8 PM. At 6 PM, I headed back onto the app to see what was happening with the delivery. In Uber style, you can see the journey of your order and where your driver is.
The delivery itself was made at 7pm - just an hour into the designated slot. It was handled by a local taxi driver, so it seems that Amazon has partnered with private hire delivery companies to build in capacity alongside their existing logistics network.
This makes sense as drivers could probably take their usual fares on a normal taxi journey whilst transporting an Amazon Prime Now order in the boot.
The order was carefully and well packed in paper packaging at no additional cost, making it quick and easy to transport from the doorstep to the kitchen.
Amazon Prime Now is a remarkable innovation in home delivery. It’s amazing to think that only a few years ago, customers are quite happy to accept delivery of items within 3 to 5 working days. Now, increasingly, consumers are expecting next day delivery as a minimum and no doubt the introduction of Amazon Prime Now will further increase consumer demands on retailers.
Amazon, with their extensive logistics delivery network and resources, are well placed to be able to meet this challenge and drive increased consumer demands. The big challenge is whether other retailers will be able to keep pace with this rate of innovation and be able to provide the extremely high levels of service that consumers are increasingly expecting in today's modern multichannel retailing environment.
From the consumer point of view, Amazon Prime Now represents just another step forward in the increasing digitisation of our lives.
From a town and city centre perspective, it reminds us of the significant importance of transforming our local towns and cities into experience-led destinations, supported by digital technologies, in order to be able to encourage and incentivise consumers to travel into local towns and cities and support the independent retail sector that creates the distinctive nature of places across the country.
Have you used Amazon Prime Now? What has your experience been? Let us know by tweeting us @Statement.