American e-commerce giant Amazon launched its Prime membership programme for Singapore yesterday, ending a four-year period of blanket free shipping to the Republic.
Shoppers in Singapore were previously eligible for free international shipping with a minimum order of US$125 (S$168) for qualifying merchandise. But with the launch of Amazon Prime, "unlimited free international shipping will now be exclusively a Prime member benefit moving forward", Amazon said.
Singapore is the 16th country - and the first in South-east Asia - to launch Amazon Prime, which gives members perks such as free shipping and access to other services for a monthly or yearly fee. Members here are eligible for free international shipping on orders above $60 of more than five million items from Amazon's United States store, which are available on the Singapore Prime Now mobile app.
The local Prime membership benefits do not apply to items bought on Amazon websites in other countries, however, and customers with existing US Prime memberships cannot convert them to local ones.
Amazon launched its fast delivery service Prime Now here in July. The service, which offers free two-hour delivery from its local warehouse with a minimum order of $40, is now exclusive to Prime members.
Streaming service Amazon Prime Video and gaming subscription service Twitch Prime are bundled as part of the membership. The Prime membership here costs $8.99 per month. But for a limited period, it goes for $2.99 a month, though Amazon did not say for how long.
Prime membership in the US costs US$10.99 a month or US$99 a year. But customers who do not have a Prime membership in the US can enjoy free delivery within the country for orders totalling US$25 or more on eligible items.
Amazon Prime International's vice-president Jamil Ghani said more benefits will be added over time for Prime membership here.
He noted that Singapore customers are "hyper-connected and mobile-first" but declined to comment on whether a local Amazon online store is forthcoming.
Lazada, the region's largest e-commerce site, launched its own membership programme in April called LiveUp in anticipation of Amazon's entry to Singapore, and the company said it now has "hundreds of thousands" of members.
LiveUp offers users benefits such as rebates and discounts for RedMart, Netflix, Uber, UberEats and Taobao Collection.
Mr Amos Tan, a Singapore Polytechnic senior lecturer in marketing and retail, said Amazon's removal of free shipping for non-members is a way of trying to lock in more customers.
But administrative assistant J. Tan, 38, was disappointed that items he had been eyeing, such as the Nintendo Switch game console, are not available through the Prime Now app and no longer qualify for free shipping on the US store.
Other consumers are looking for more services to be added to Prime. Events coordinator Mabel Tan, 26, said Prime does not have a strong enough draw for her yet, but "if they add more products and services, I will consider the membership".