After months of hype, speculation, and delays, Amazon has finally launched its full Australian website, less than three weeks before Christmas.
In the early hours of Tuesday morning amazon.com.au transformed from an online bookseller into a full e-commerce marketplace, with the statement “Now delivering – shop millions of new products” appearing on its homepage.
Categories now available include video games, consumer electronics, sports equipment, tools, home improvement products, toys, beauty products, clothing and shoes, as well as the traditional books, Kindles and other Amazon devices.
The product range will be limited to mostly third-party sellers selling on Amazon Marketplace, though it is expected that some of Amazon’s private label products will also be available.
The site will also give users access to Prime Video, Amazon’s answer to Netflix.
Rocco Braeuniger, the man brought in from Amazon’s German arm to run the Australian operation, said Amazon would be focusing on “customers and the long-term” as it attempted to build its business in Australia.
“By concentrating on providing a great shopping experience and by constantly innovating on behalf of customers, we hope to earn the trust and the custom of Australian shoppers in the years to come,” he said.
In a statement on Tuesday, Amazon said it would offer free delivery on “eligible” orders over $49, and one-day delivery in some regions.
These regions are likely to be in the Melbourne area, as so far Amazon Australia only has one distribution warehouse or ‘fulfilment centre’, located in the south-east Melbourne suburb of Dandenong South.
While Amazon’s launch is likely to shake up the retail environment, the fact that it has just one distribution centre for the entire country means, at first, the service will not be nearly as comprehensive as the US or UK version.
Crucially, Amazon’s ‘Prime’ service, which in the United States gives shoppers ultra quick, free delivery via its futuristic nationwide network of warehouses and delivery methods, will not at first be available in Australia.
However, in Tuesday’s statement, the Seattle-based firm said it “expects” to launch Prime shipping benefits in Australia in mid-2018 – though it did not elaborate.
Amazon’s grocery chain, Amazon Fresh, will also not be available at first, though it is expected to open in Australia at some point.
“Over time, we will create thousands of new jobs and invest hundreds of millions of dollars in Australia,” Mr Braeuniger said.
“The result will be an ever-improving customer experience driven by the regular introduction of new products and services that we hope customers will love.”
Currently Amazon Australia employs around 1000 people in its Dandenong South warehouse and corporate offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Canberra.
Amazon’s arrival in Australia has many domestic retailers nervous, and has seen a number ramp up their e-commerce divisions in an attempt to compete.
Last week, department store chain Myer launched ‘The Myer Market’, an e-commerce site run on exactly the same principles as Amazon Marketplace. It allows third-party sellers to sell via the platform, in exchange for a listing fee and sales commission.
Bunnings Warehouse also entered the e-commerce market after decades of shunning online retail.
But Amazon’s own road to launching in Australia has not been smooth.
A leaked email to sellers revealed the Australian site would “soft-launch” on Thursday 24 November. This led many sellers to believe the full launch would come the following day, on the annual discount shopping bonanza known as ‘Black Friday’.
Information about a nationwide marketing campaign appeared to confirm this. However, ‘Black Friday’ came and went, and Amazon did not launch.
Sellers told The New Daily that there had been technical issues, and that the process of uploading products onto the site had been a “hugely involved process”.