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New Subscribe and Save Offer from Amazon could prove sticky

As I report that Amazon has been making further inroads into the UK online shopping market, I realise it is probably an under-statement. As it was our go-to provider long before the holiday season it is no wonder we availed of the great selection of offers during November/December. Free home delivery, the peace-of-mind from trouble-free returns and refunds and a reliable service has made Amazon the darling of many Brits over the recent past, as can be seen from the volume of reviews pouring into the site.

I was interested therefore to notice today that their "Subscribe&Save" offer earlier launched in the US is now available in the UK. The offer claims to provide regular users the ability to save up to 15% as well as gain free shipping on recurring deliveries. To me this seems to be yet another step in the evolution of Amazon from book supplier to online provider of the first resort. For UK shoppers who are now spoilt for choice of online retailer with most grocery stores offering great home delivery options, this appears to be designed to tempt us away, with a wide range of household items appearing on the site. With its legendary knack, while I was checking out the offer Amazon quickly suggested a few subscriptions, for items I had bought on a number of occasions.

I must admit this looks promising but may also have some unexpected consequences. From my past experience of launching digital content services in the UK, I recall the "Crazy Frog” incident where junior mobile subscribers unwittingly found themselves with costly recurring subscriptions. I expect there could be a number of latent issues the marketing team must consider to ensure that people don’t end up with deliveries they did not expect and suppliers don’t have to contend with higher levels of refund.

On the topic of shopping on Amazon, within an overall great experience, I must admit I have recently found one aspect particularly irritating. Introduced over 2015, their "Add 0.01 p to get free delivery" never fails to irritate our household, and probably a lot of UK online shoppers. A number of desirable products are priced at £19.99. However, one needs £20 of "applicable items" for home delivery and finding one that is fulfilled by Amazon or otherwise applicable is not easy. For people to save around £4 delivery cost this means a painful job of looking through many items to find something that qualifies.

I find the concept of Add-on Items is itself an admirable one - quite unique and helpful both to consumers and sellers, making it feasible to provide low cost, small items online. However it can be most irritating to find an item that qualifies for the 0.01p required, heave a sigh of release and lug it into your online basket only to find that it’s not made your delivery cost go away.

Not to mention the additional time you are forced to spend trying to save money on Amazon must come with a health warning as one can end up buying so much more than one planned – the shopping experience is so slick that it can be quite addictive! I think the same will soon be said of a number of the other online stores that are burgeoning in the UK market, but as a delighted consumer I am not complaining (yet?).

PS: For full disclosure, I am not connected with Amazon in any way, apart from being a shopper and an interested  observer of the way money is going digital, to power payments and commerce around the world.



Comments: (4)

Ketharaman Swaminathan
Ketharaman Swaminathan - GTM360 Marketing Solutions - Pune 21 January, 2016, 14:211 like 1 like

I echo your irritation with "Add 0.01 p to get free delivery", just that in India, the threshold for free delivery is INR 500. I've often wondered why Amazon simply doesn't ask the customer to "gift" away that 0.01p / INR 1 to reach the threshold instead of making them go around in circles to find a qualifying item.

Oh, well, wait, the marketer in me is now kicking in.

Maybe it is Amazon's intention to drive the consumer to buy some more stuff as they "go around in circles" - the ecommerce equivalent of stacking chewing gum, chocolate and other items at the store checkout line, easily within reach of consumers waiting in queue.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 21 January, 2016, 14:45Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

So true Ketharaman, and it is exactly what makes it so irritating. If as a consumer I could choose to pay a round sum and safely gift the amount to charity that would greatly increase the goodwill I feel towards a shop - one for retailers to consider!

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 01 February, 2016, 20:27Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Great post Charmaine. Amazon is definitely building very effectively on their core Prime membership. It'll be interesting to see how other retailers plan to compete. They could launch a me-too membership program but Amazon has managed to create a very wide and lucrative offer through their seller marketplace, media streaming, Kindle, and subscribe & Save. Every passing day makes competing with Prime more difficult. How much money they are making from core retail operations is another story though.

A Finextra member
A Finextra member 02 February, 2016, 08:57Be the first to give this comment the thumbs up 0 likes

Thanks Manish. Shortly after this post Amazon ran the BIGTHANKS promotion on being voted No. 1 in a UK consumer survey pertaining to the holiday season. As you say their marketplace offer is a huge differentiator and it no doubt took some commitment to make this work as well as it does today.

Charmaine Oak

Charmaine Oak


Shift Thought Ltd

Member since

13 Jun 2016



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