Amazon Prime Now saves the day

Accenture analyst, Ed Lowe, shares his experience of using Amazon’s two-hour delivery service to buy last-minute Christmas gifts.

Getting a Secret Santa present for someone I didn’t really know was one of those dreaded tasks in the lead up to Christmas that I had been putting off for days. As it seemed for many of us this year, Friday 23rd December came around quickly, and knowing the chaos that would be any shops with similarly poorly organised shoppers, I searched for an alternative.

I opened the Amazon app on my phone, and the bright orange banner along the top for Amazon Prime Now greeted me in my moment of need; delivery in just two hours, even at this busy time of the year.

Although I had to download a separate app and re-enter my details, the selection when I did access Amazon Prime Now was surprisingly good; clearly the company had considered the last minute present rush, and gifts were heavily promoted compared to the essentials that have featured in Amazon adverts.

The app had the same clean interface as its parent, and it remained dangerously easy to make impulse purchases. This effect seemed even more alluring given the fast nature of delivery.

After purchasing Lonely Planet’s Travelist book for my travel-loving Secret Santa, I had to purchase another product to make up the £20 minimum spend – a little annoying, but I was willing to do so under the circumstances. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see no delivery fee at all, in line with the usual benefits of being an Amazon Prime customer.

Following selection of my two-hour interval for delivery, a map popped up showing the product at the warehouse and its current status. It was satisfying to follow the package as the driver wound his way through the backstreets of East London to me; a tracking process I am familiar with from companies like Uber and Deliveroo.

The product arrived well within the time bracket advertised. Arriving in a brown paper bag by a friendly delivery driver to my door, the parallels with other delivery apps for everything from dinner to laundry were clear. The whole process took just a shade over two hours, from order to door. This was Amazon, but not quite as we have known it before.

This Prime Now offering seemed more closely linked to the ‘on-demand’ economy than Amazon’s traditional delivery methods. It is clear they have put significant time and effort into developing a new infrastructure to suit this new ‘within two hours’ timescale. The launch of Amazon Air in Cambridgeshire and a recent patent to launch airship warehouses shows their ambition to automate this kind of delivery.

The company has also completed a couple of promotional stunts to push Prime Now this Christmas: golden tickets included in packages across the United States offered free prizes ranging from dinner to plane tickets. Gift of the year NES Classic Edition console was available on Prime Now in the days just before Christmas, whilst it was sold out on the main site and almost everywhere else.

Tantalisingly, Amazon also included a £10 voucher for Amazon Restaurants, a new service they are trialling to compete with the likes of Deliveroo, Uber Eats and JustEat. It suggests they are targeting more of the on-demand market than simply shampoo and toilet rolls.

I would definitely use Amazon Prime Now again – the service was fast, simple and at no cost beyond the Prime membership I already own.  However, generating customer demand at times less pressing than Christmas Eve Eve will be the challenge for the service.

Edward Lowe is an analyst at Accenture working in the retail and consumer goods industries. He has previously been published in the Huffington Post. To read more of his writing on business and technology, visit his blog. He can be found tweeting @edwardlowe13.

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