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Amazon Prime service makes debut in Singapore

SINGAPORE — Five months after Amazon made its first foray into Singapore, the e-commerce giant is pushing out its membership service, Amazon Prime, which offers free global shipping and access to video streaming, among other things.

Amazon Prime service makes debut in Singapore

Five months after Amazon made its first foray into Singapore, the e-commerce giant is pushing out its membership service, Amazon Prime, which offers free global shipping and access to video streaming, among other things. Illustration photo: Reuters

SINGAPORE — Five months after Amazon made its first foray into Singapore, the e-commerce giant is pushing out its membership service, Amazon Prime, which offers free global shipping and access to video streaming, among other things.

Customers may sign up for the membership on Amazon's website from Wednesday (Dec 6), and users will be entitled to a 30-day free trial. The monthly membership is priced at S$8.99, but it is going at S$2.99 as an introductory offer.

In an interview with TODAY on Tuesday (Dec 5), the company declined to reveal how long this promotion will last.

Back in July, Amazon had introduced its ultra-fast delivery service, Prime Now, here. High demand in the first week caused delivery problems, but the company told TODAY that it has since boosted its capacity to be better prepared this time round.

Mr Jamil Ghani, vice-president of Amazon Prime International, said that it has "learnt a great deal about how to craft the Prime programme" through that experience. "We were really encouraged by the strength of the response from customers, and rapidly increased capacity by adding additional staff members and drivers through our delivery service providers," he said, adding that the company would continue to grow its teams.

Besides this, it is also taking into account what Singapore customers want.

For example, those who used the Amazon Prime Now mobile application were not impressed by the limited choice of products offered.

So now, the Prime membership will give customers access to more than five million products listed on Amazon's site in the United States. Customers who make orders above S$60 using the Prime Now app will not have to pay global shipping fees.

The free two-hour delivery on orders over S$40, between 10am and 10pm daily via the Prime Now app, will also apply to Prime members.

These services would be sought now that the American retailer has ended its Free AmazonGlobal Saver Shipping service to Singapore. Customers used to get free global shipping for orders above US$125 (S$168).

(Click to enlarge) Infographic on Amazon Prime in Singapore. Source: Amazon

STREAMING MOVIES, TV SERIES

Another service available to Singapore's Amazon Prime subscribers is video streaming. Touted as an alternative to Netflix, it will allow members to stream or download popular movies and TV series via the Amazon Prime Video app on Android and iOS mobile devices.

Fans of gaming and video-streaming service Twitch will also be able to enjoy gaming perks, free channel subscription and commercial-free viewing.

The launch of Amazon Prime makes Singapore the only South-east Asian country to offer the membership. Elsewhere in the region, it is also available in China, India and Japan.

Declining to reveal membership figures in these countries, an Amazon spokesperson said that 20 million new members joined Prime last year worldwide. "We now have tens of millions of Amazon Prime members around the world," she added.

Data from Google and state investment firm Temasek Holdings last year showed that the size of Singapore's e-commerce market is set to expand more than five times, to be worth US$5.4 billion within 10 years.

The e-commerce space in Singapore has also become increasingly competitive, with the recent acquisition of Lazada by China's Alibaba.

Hangzhou-based Alibaba also has a membership programme called the "88 Membership Club", which was launched this year. The loyalty programme offers members exclusive discounts and brand services, and they may accumulate points by submitting product reviews, for instance.

Singapore is seen as a gateway to the regional market of more than 500 million consumers, but experts warn that the Amazon will need to step up its game if it wishes to compete with other players, especially after its bumpy roll-out in July.

Mr Samuel Tan, a retail management expert with the Temasek Polytechnic School of Business, said: "Amazon Prime Now in Singapore has faced initial challenges and may not yet be meeting customer expectations compared to its success in the US. The initial hiccups may have affected customer brand perception and potentially given its competitors an added advantage."

The company needs to catch up with its competitors not just to be a major player in Singapore, but in the rest of Asia, Mr Tan added.

To that, Mr Ghani said: "We don't spend a lot of time focusing on competition, but that said, (competition) is healthy, and we welcome it."

He also seemed confident that the Prime service would do well to recoup its standing in the region. "Now with an even wider selection of international items available... along with unlimited access to Prime Video and Twitch Prime, this membership is designed to offer the best of Amazon."

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