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Amazon.com launches Prime Now in Singapore

Friday, 28 July 2017

SINGAPORE: Amazon.com Inc has launched its two-hour delivery service in Singapore, marking the e-commerce giant’s biggest push into South-East Asia and its first head-on battle with Chinese rival, Alibaba Group Holding.

While Amazon already delivered to Singapore, higher-end services had not been available, including Prime subscriptions which provide access to the company’s video-streaming service.

The Prime Now Singapore app promises to deliver everything from Tiger Balm ointment to eggs, hammer drills and Pampers nappies within 2 hours. In Asia, Amazon has largely sidestepped China and focused on India, where it is the number-two player behind local rival Flipkart.

But its arrival in Singapore, a tiny but wealthy city state of just over five million people, has been hotly anticipated as a gateway to a South-East Asian region of 600 million, where currently only a fraction of sales are conducted online.

Singaporeans make a just fraction of total purchases online now, but the country’s shoppers rushed to download the app, which offers free delivery on orders of S$40 (US$29.50) or more. For now, Amazon is waiving the membership requirement.

Workers at Amazon’s 100,000-sq-ft warehouse in Singapore were already busy yesterday dealing with orders placed in the early hours.

“Something with such quick delivery will be great,” said Jeremy Khoo, a 50-year-old communications manager in Singapore, who said he would now shop for groceries from Amazon Prime Now.

Industry executives, meanwhile, are preparing for a battle of titans in Singapore and beyond. Alibaba owns South-East Asia-focused Lazada, and spent an extra US$1 billion to boost its stake to 83% last month.

Ahead of Amazon’s arrival, it launched subscription-based customer loyalty programme LiveUp in Singapore in April, a venture which includes ride-hailing app Uber, streaming service Netflix and local online grocer Redmart, which it owns.

“Singapore will be a test bed,” said Ajay Sunder, vice-president of digital transformation at Frost and Sullivan.

“I would give Amazon another two quarters, they should be rolling out soon in South-East Asia, at least the major cities.” Frost forecasts online product sales in South-East Asia to grow to US$71 billion by 2021 from US$16 billion in 2016.

Since launching 5 years ago, Lazada has expanded into 6 markets in South-East Asia: Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Amazon has yet to detail its plans for the wider region and a spokeswoman declined to comment.

Besides financial support, Alibaba’s investment has boosted Lazada’s range of merchants and improved its logistics. Lazada and Alibaba could already be ahead, said Xiaofeng Wang, a senior analyst at research firm Forrester, with their longer experience of local customers, and with logistics and vendor systems.

Amazon, though, has deep pockets, technological nous and an inventory of US products, she added.

Source by: Internet

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