July 2, 2015

Get your nappies faster: Amazon UK launches one-hour delivery in London

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Also available in your local 24-hour shop

Also available in your local 24-hour shop

Amazon UK has launched a one-hour delivery service in London. Using the Prime Now service, Amazon Prime members will now be able to order an item from the website and have it delivered to them within an hour.

According to The Bookseller:

Prime members will have to download the Prime Now mobile app for one-hour delivery, which can be used on over 10,000 items from Amazon.co.uk. Customers will have to pay £6.99 for the less-than 60-minute service, but can also elect a free two-hour delivery slot, running from 8am until midnight, seven days a week.

The service is just another way for Amazon to encourage customers to sign up to its Amazon Prime service and get locked into its subscription model. But it’s also patently clear that Amazon is introducing this service as a challenge to the high street. As the online giant has grown, bricks and mortar stores have always had a major advantage over Amazon: they could offer goods immediately upon purchase. Amazon has slowly been closing that gap by offering faster delivery times, from next day to same day, and announcing initiatives like Sunday deliveries.

But it was believed there was only so much that Amazon could do. Its fulfilment centres are placed outside of major cities for reasons of cost and space; you simply couldn’t fit one of its gigantic sheds inside a city. Happily, it seemed unlikely that Amazon could get things any faster to customers, despite their silly drone experiments.

Now Amazon appears to have overcome this problem in London. According to its press release:

Prime Now is made available through Amazon Logistics, Amazon’s technology and logistics platform that empowers independent local, regional and national delivery companies across the UK to deliver Amazon parcels to customers seven days a week. Amazon Logistics’ delivery station in East London will serve as the first hub for delivery of Prime Now orders.

The programme seems to be possible because the company is putting a limit on the kinds of products that can be delivered in an hour. According to Amazon, the service will available on:

…daily essentials such as coffee, batteries and nappies, as well as other popular items like games consoles, toys and sports equipment.

Just out of interest, when was the last time you bought batteries? Anyway, what strikes me as badly-thought out here is that this service is offering the right things to the wrong people. Or the other way around: the wrong things to the right people.

It makes sense to launch your new, flashy service in England’s capital. It’s the most concentrated area of consumerism in the country, after all. But one of the best things about living in a city is that unlike a small town or the countryside, most things are available most of the time. If I run out of coffee twenty minutes before I’m supposed to leave for work or if I have some kind of battery emergency, I live five minutes from a 24-hour corner shop that sells both of these things and every other ‘daily essential’ I could ever require. I have my very own everything store on my doorstop, as do many other Londoners, and I don’t have to pay for delivery.

Surely Londoners aren’t so lazy and relentlessly consumerist that they will use a service like Prime Now when they have an embarrassment of high street riches on their doorsteps? Surely the whole point of living in a city is that you never experience the panic of running out of something and having to wait an hour or more to get it? Surely it makes sense to support the businesses near you that make up the character of your neighbourhood and were probably the reason you moved to that area in the first place?

But despite my reservations, I’m sure Prime Now will do well. As well as ‘daily essentials’ Amazon is offering super fast delivery on lifestyle and entertainment items (including, presumably, books) that every student, forgetful parent and busy office worker will come to appreciate and not question.

Amazon is planning to “reach all of London and additional UK cities by the end of the year.”

 

Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.

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