Amazon Hub launches to meet rising demand for flexible delivery

Amazon has launched a new service in Australia that allows customers to collect their parcels from hundreds of locations in shopping centres and on high streets in a bid to improve its delivery offer before the biggest online shopping days of the year.

First launched in the US in 2011, Amazon Hub allows shoppers to ship parcels to convenient third-party locations, rather than their home address. The service includes a “counter” option, where shoppers can collect parcels from bricks-and-mortar retail partners such as convenience stores, and a “locker” option, where they can collect parcels from self-service kiosks in shopping centres, banks and other places.

The marketplace has now partnered with more than 100 Commonwealth Bank of Australia branches, Victorian Authorised Newsagents Association locations and Stockland shopping centres to bring the service to Australia.

Hundreds more Amazon Hub locations are due to launch by the end of the year, and thousands more will launch across the country in 2020, the company said in a statement.

Patrick Supanc, global director of Amazon Hub, said the new service would extend Amazon’s “exceptional customer service” to the delivery experience.

“Since launching Amazon.com.au in 2017, we’ve committed to making e-commerce rooted in low prices, vast selection and convenience a part of everyday life for Australian customers,” he said.

“We’re excited now to partner with large and small businesses in Australia to extend Amazon’s exceptional customer service and innovations in delivery by offering a quick and simple pick-up experience.”

Parcel pick-up on the rise

The launch comes just one week before Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which are now the biggest online shopping days of the year in Australia.

E-commerce purchases by volume were up more than 28 per cent year on year during Cyber Week in 2018, according to an annual online shopping report by Australia Post. The five weeks from November 11-December 15 accounted for 15 per cent of all e-commerce transactions that year.

Australia Post on Monday announced the expansion of its own parcel pick-up service in partnership with fulfilment company Doddle. Booktopia and Peter’s of Kensington are among the first retailers to use the service, which lets customers send their online orders to IGA supermarkets, Priceline pharmacies, shopping centres and other locations.

Nathan Huppatz, co-founder of ReadyToShip, a shipping platform that lets retailers select the best delivery options for each order and print labels, says parcel pick-up is gaining traction, though it’s not exactly new. Major retailers, such as eBay, The Iconic and Glassons, have offered it as a delivery option for some time through ParcelPoint.

But Huppatz says consumer demand for flexible delivery times and advancements in the technology that allows retailers to integrate different delivery options at checkout is contributing to arise in pick-up services.

Until recently, most of the volume going through ReadyToShip has been standard delivery, Huppatz said. But in the last 12 months, there’s been greater uptake of Australia Post’s new on-demand delivery options, including same-day evening and Saturday delivery.

“There’s definitely a demand out there from consumers to have flexibility, and these days there are more and more solutions to enable that,” he told Inside Retail.

Integration can be a hurdle

This is mostly good news for retailers, though Huppatz says parcel pick-up can present problems if the carrier’s integration requires retailers to make too many changes.

“As soon as a retailer has to start modifying the checkout process or their order or warehouse systems, that’s where it can be a hurdle to overcome,” he said. “If the integration is simple, or you can use an existing carrier, it becomes much easier.”

Still, he expects to see more retailers offering parcel pick-up in the coming months and is considering how he can stay on top of consumers’ changing preferences.

“We think over the next 12-24 months, we will see growing demand for access to crowdsourced delivery options, especially for local metro areas,” he said.

But Huppatz, who also owns the e-commerce site Costumes.com.au, believes there’s another reason Amazon may have launched its parcel pick-up service in Australia.

“EBay and Amazon are competing with each other quite strongly and are looking to plug any holes they can find in their customer experience,” he said, noting the marketplaces’ recent partnerships with Afterpay and Zip, respectively.

“Amazon has a ruthless customer focus. Everything is designed to make buying, searching, basically anything to do with their platform better for the customer. If they see a need for customers to pick up their products, you can bet they’ll work on that.”

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