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Amazon Prime Now raises bar with one-hour delivery

Amazon is racing past its own milestone of offering same-day delivery with the new Prime Now for Prime customers that promises one-hour delivery, showing the online retailer’s determination to remain one step ahead of its competition.

Currently available to Manhattan residents, Amazon hopes to expand the offering in more areas next year. By initiating the launch during the holiday season, Amazon is allowing customers to try the service during a high-spending month, prompting them to get attached to it.

“Mobile will play a big role Amazone Prime Now, as users trust the company with stored credit card data, allowing Amazon’s one-click checkout to thrive,” said Wilson Kerr, vice president of business development and sales at Unbound Commerce, Boston. “Opening the Amazon app and tapping a ‘reorder’ button when household items run low is far easier than heading out and slogging it through an in-store checkout line.

“In our ‘need it now’ culture, Amazon continues to thrive and innovate,” he said.

Shortening the gap
Prime members can now use Prime Now when purchasing products including paper towels, shampoo, books, toys and batteries.

To take advantage of the new service, Prime members will need to download the Prime Now application, which is available on iOS and Android devices. Users will be notified on the app when the service is available in their local area.

Prime Now is available from 6 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week. Two-hour delivery is free and one-hour delivery is available for $7.99. A portion of Amazon’s new building on 34th Street in Manhattan will serve as a hub for delivery of Prime Now orders.

The app also shows shipping tracking, and users can watch for the item and see how far away it is.

The holiday season is the perfect time for Amazon to launch such a service, because consumers are likely spending more money than usual. The tool is also ideal for last-minute shoppers by taking the stress out of procrastination.

Amazon Prime, an annual membership for loyal customers, is $99 a year and offers free two-day shipping on more than 20 million items, instant streaming of movies and TV episodes through Prime Instant Video, one million songs and hundreds of playlists through Prime Music, free unlimited photo storage through Amazon’s Cloud Drive, early access to select Lightning Deals and access to more than 600,000 books to borrow through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

Fighting for number one
Amazon has been hitting the industry time after time this year with new innovations.

Its new Facebook-powered Surprise! mobile application points to how mobile gift cards are increasingly a must-have for a comprehensive mcommerce strategy.

The Surprise! app offers e-cards for a variety of occasions, including birthdays and December holidays, and allows consumers to quickly attach an Amazon Gift Card to their mobile device and send it along with their customized message. Mobile gift cards are likely to eclipse physical gift cards in the future and are attracting customers with enhanced personalization features and sheer convenience of purchasing on a smartphone (see story).

With the prior, the retailer has also fallen short on some efforts.

While Amazon’s introduction of voice search in its iPhone application is an important example of where mcommerce may be headed, the solution falls short at providing a strong user experience with too many irrelevant results.

Amazon’s recent iPhone app update optimized it for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus phones while introducing the ability to search for products using voice. When the mobile commerce leader previously enabled shoppers to point the app at a product and search for it using image recognition technology, retailers such as Target and Macy’s quickly followed suit (see story).

“Rapid delivery is what sets Amazon apart, and this is a logical progression, as they seek to have their customers ‘skip the trip to a retail store,” Mr. Kerr said. “Their popular Subscribe and Save program will likely support this new delivery service, as most household items are repeat, brand-specific purchases.

“For example, anyone with a new baby knows they need diapers, wipes, and formula in regular intervals, and if Amazon can prove that free two-hour home delivery works,  they will further delight their loyal Prime users and build loyalty.”

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon is an editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York