Amazon is coming.  Despite the American retail behemoth delivering product to Australian consumers for some time, the company’s search for an Australian-based fulfilment centre signals a clear intent to ramp up their Australian offering, including the industry-shattering Prime service. Understandably, many members of the local retail industry are shaking like a leaf.
Many experts say Australian businesses aren’t prepared to compete, and Australian retail king Gerry Harvey is preparing for battle but what does the regular consumer think? Do they really care about the ‘machine learning’ revolution? When only 7% of the dollar value of retail sales comes from online spending, is this really enough to encourage the vast majority of consumers to fill their virtual baskets rather than head straight to Westfield? 
Rather than postulate on potential consumer reactions here at home, we went out and found ourselves a 100% genuine American consumer: Scott Weber (he’s also a graphic designer and online contributor.)  Scott has given us his thoughts on why every second American (him included) spends their hard-earned on on a regular basis.
In the US online retail space, Amazon has felt something like Big Friendly Giant that has trotted along calmly, gradually winning over even its most ardent detractors through two blindingly simple (yet spectacularly effective) sales & support philosophies:
AmazonAs is the case with most mainstream-dominant corporations, speak to enough Americans and you’ll find one or two who have had a bad experience on Amazon and swear it off. But almost overwhelmingly, it has become to online retail what Kleenex is to tissues or Google is to search engines: it just is online retail in the minds of most Americans. People here trust Amazon, and even trust their open user marketplaces in ways that the likes of eBay don’t come close to rivalling.
Whilst I know a lot of the talk surrounding the Amazon expansion into the Australian market is centred on their incredible machine learning, recommendations & community reviews, what strikes me more as a consumer is this simple fact: I have never once encountered an issue with buying or selling anything on Amazon.
For example, just the other day I purchased a video from Amazon’s streaming service that wouldn’t play in the highest quality streaming on my device. Amazon support refunded me on the spot. They always give customers the benefit of the doubt, which probably costs them a bit in any given quarter, but it means I’m always happy to come back. If they continue this ethos in Australia, there is no doubt that it will have the same effect on anyone who sells their products through them: a confident and trusting selection of dedicated customers.
Consumer confidence aside, perhaps most notable of Amazon’s services is Amazon Prime.
Prime functions like a buy-in VIP programme of sorts, allowing users to get free two-day shipping on anything Amazon directly sells. Prime also comes with a multimedia streaming service, not unlike Netflix or Spotify Plus, but the beginning and end of Amazon in the minds of most customers I know is definitely that free shipping.
The price of Prime has climbed steadily over the years, but it remains a very popular option for those regular customers considering long term savings.  As a result of those price increases relative to my own shopping habits, the value is no longer there for me, which means I’m once again dabbling in other online retail outlets like eBay and more niche shopping sites…but I still often find myself coming back to Amazon regularly, and think I always will.
That being said, I think Prime is an incredibly useful option for anyone looking to consolidate their shopping habits, especially around the holidays. A large percentage of my friends and family have used or currently use Prime, and cannot for the life of me recall once hearing anyone complain about it. My mother, for example, used to shop at dozens of stores for Christmas each year, but now that shopping begins and ends with Amazon. For her, the win is simply that the process is more easy and efficient.
My final thoughts? If Amazon AU continues the company policy of simplified one-stop shopping with the backbone of stellar customer support and programs like Prime that encourage customer devotion, don’t be surprised to see a seismic shift in even the most basic way Australians comprehend the notion of shopping online.
Scott Weber is a freelance graphic designer and online contributor based in Pittsburgh, PA.  His work is mostly centred within the film & gaming industries.
Image: Alexander Neumann via Pinterest
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