Amazon takes on Australia Post
Retail giant Amazon will directly challenge Australia Post this Christmas, today unveiling a plan to deliver parcels to lockers and local businesses to get around the national provider.
Called Amazon Hub, the company's new program will send goods to "hundreds" of new locations in New South Wales and Victoria for collection by customers, with plans to roll out the scheme to other Australian states and territories next year.
But retail experts said the tech giant was merely "playing catch-up" with existing services and still had a long way to go to become the leading shopping destination in Australia.
Amazon's Australian announcement also followed the launch of some more unusual delivery methods in the United States, including one involving a robot and another where delivery drivers asked permission to enter people's homes unsupervised.
Amazon Hub, however, will see the company set up parcel lockers around Australia, and partner with "small to medium businesses" to store deliveries for customers to collect.
Amazon Hub worldwide director Patrick Supanc said the program was devised to help time-poor online shoppers receive their goods promptly without risking theft or being forced to find post offices.
"Sometimes home delivery is not always the most convenient or preferred option for some of our customers," he said. "They may live very busy lives and may not be able to be at home through the day for delivery, they may live in an apartment complex where doorstop delivery is not really possible, or they may be travelling a lot."
Mr Supanc said Amazon had partnered with the Commonwealth Bank and Stockland shopping centres to set up accessible parcel lockers in New South Wales and Victoria, and would team with the Victorian Association for Newsagents for over-the-counter collections.
Shoppers will be given the option to pick up their item from a locker or a store at checkout, and won't be charged extra for the service. They'll have three days to pick the item up from a locker, and 14 days to collect it from a store.
"Our goal is to continue to grow this program rapidly, and over the remainder of the year we will be adding hundreds more locations," Mr Supanc said.
"We expect we'll have about a hundred locker locations and several hundred counter locations as he head into the holidays."
But Amazon's move will go head-to-head with Australia Post, which already offers parcel lockers in 350 locations around Australia.
Some courier companies, including DHL, also offer customers the option to pick up their items in 7000 Australian stores, including Shell service stations.
Gartner global retail principal research analyst Thomas O'Connor said Amazon's new service was simply an attempt match its competitors in the Australian market.
"This is a way to catch up to what their competitors are already doing," he said.
"Because Amazon haven't been in the market for that long, they're still working out the gaps in their service offering. Clearly, this is one of the services that Australian shoppers are using."
Mr O'Connor said Aussie shoppers could expect to see greater discounts and better service from Amazon and local stores this Christmas to win over wary consumers.
"A lot of businesses in Australia are picking up their game," he said.
"The point of difference for Amazon isn't as great which means they have to get that service piece right and their price points right."