In reaction to growing online delivery competition, the e-commerce giant Amazon has recently introduced free shipping to all items that weight 8 ounces (about 230 grams) or less – things like phone accessories and cosmetics that cost around 10$ – without requiring a minimum order or subscription to the Amazon Prime membership program, which costs 99$ per year and offers a free two-day delivery service.
“Customers love that even if it’s a $5 item, shipping is free for everybody, Prime member or not,” said Neil Ackerman, a Senior Manager at Amazon. “Customers love it and sellers love it.”
Prior to this move, regular Amazon shoppers had to have a minimum of 35$ in their shopping carts to qualify for free shipping, which would often lead to reluctant purchases of additional items just to make the cut – a problem that’s bound to go away as soon as the new program, called “Fulfilment by Amazon Small and Light”, gets into full swing.
The shipments will be going through the company’s new delivery hub in Florence, Kentucky, and should take no more than 4 to 8 business days – just a little longer than those made through the premium service.
According to Amazon, thousands of items are already available for the program from hundreds of third-party retailers, who sell goods on the website and give Amazon a cut of each sale for handling storage, packaging, delivery and customer service.
The company’s ability to constantly increase the number of items available for free delivery is a testament to how efficient the retail giant has become at fulfilling orders. Just last week, Amazon made a similar announcement when it rolled out free same-day delivery of over a million items across a major part of the US. Orders must total 35$ to qualify and be placed before noon.
Coupled with the AmazonDash device and the recently-launched grocery delivery service, free shipping of small items could go a long way towards helping the company withstand the competition from eBay (set to pilot a loyalty program in Germany), Walmart (almost ready for its 50$-a-year unlimited shipping service), Google’s Express Shipping and a number of startups that plan to offer inexpensive or free product delivery.
Before taking the plunge, Amazon had been quietly testing the new program for 13 weeks and said it decided to continue it after noticing that items were selling more quickly when they did not require a minimum order.
Tuesday’s announcement is in line with a move Amazon made three years ago, which enabled it to start selling thousands of new items online, including products that were previously uneconomical to ship because of their size, weight or low price.
The company is also currently trying to develop delivery drones, although this endeavour has so far been only partially successful due to governmental motions pertaining to the regulation of such services.