Commentary

Is Amazon Upping The Showrooming Ante With Sunday Deliveries?

USPSAmazon is chipping away at the remaining disadvantages of online ordering. Sunday delivery is now on the table. In a joint announcement with the United States Postal Service last night, Amazon announced that the New York and Los Angeles customer using the Prime free two-day shipping service would be getting their packages on Sunday now. The service will be rolled out to other major metro areas including Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Phoenix, as well as others in 2014.

“We’re excited that now every day is Amazon delivery day,” stated Dave Clark, VP of Worldwide Operations, Amazon in the company announcement.

The Sunday delivery feature does not appear to be limited to Amazon. In its statement, USPS Postmaster General and CEO Patrick R. Donahoe says: “As online shopping continues to increase, the Postal Service is very happy to offer shippers like Amazon the option of having packages delivered on Sunday.” No other retailers announced their use of the service, however.

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For Amazon Prime customers, no special ordering options are necessary. Sunday simply will show up as the target delivery date when appropriate and available in that area.  

The idea addresses one of the remaining weaknesses of the online alternative to live retail shopping -- the immediate gratification of walking out of a store with an item. Amazon and other retailers have also experimented with various forms of same-day delivery in select cities as well.

Does this up the ante a bit on showrooming? Well, maybe. I am not sure that Thursday night or Friday shoppers will be swayed much by Sunday delivery as they make that little calculation in the store between the price differential and immediate fulfillment. Sunday delivery does help give the impression that the online ordering system has just a bit less friction overall.

As I covered last week in Mobile Insider, University of Toronto Professor of Marketing Avi Goldfarb writes about the “disutility” of e-commerce that most consumers are building into their purchase choices. Research showed that the retail context around a shopper influences their online ordering. Areas with a lot of bookstores tend to order many fewer Amazon bestsellers despite the lower pricing. In some ways, Goldfarb theorizes, mobile phones actually help reinforce the power of local retail because mobile connected behaviors are different from PC behaviors. The smartphone search tends to favor local promotions and search results for nearby brick-and-mortar options.

Limited to two cities, it is hard to see Sunday USPS delivery impacting the 2013 shopping season. But as other retailers join in and make 7-day delivery an expected feature of online ordering, this could become a new locus for competition in 2014.

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