Amazon Australia has confirmed it is looking to launch Subscribe & Save, a discounted subscription service for items that people tend to buy on a regular basis, such as toilet paper, toothpaste and dish soap.
The news, which Amazon Australia country manager Rocco Braeuniger revealed to the Australian Financial Review on Wednesday, comes on the heels of the company’s one-year anniversary of launching in Australia.
Since introducing its retail and marketplace offering in the local market, Amazon has increased its selection five-fold to 100 million items, launched its popular loyalty program, Amazon Prime, and hosted local Prime Day and Black Friday sales, for the first time.
The impending launch of Subscribe & Save, which could occur as early as next year, according to Braeuniger’s comments to the AFR, reflects the US-based company’s strategy of bringing its products and services to customers around the world.
“Amazon’s focus is always to bring products and services to customers that provide great value, convenience and selection,” a company spokesperson told IR.
When asked about Subscribe & Save, however, the spokesperson declined to provide any specific details.
“We work hard to bring the products and services that customers around the world enjoy to each of our marketplaces, such as Subscribe & Save, but we have nothing specific to announce.”
Unlike most subscription companies, Amazon doesn’t charge a monthly fee for Subscribe & Save, and two-day delivery is free. Instead, it offers a discount on eligible items to incentivise customers to automatically re-order certain items on a regular basis, from monthly to ever six months.
The discount is between 5 and 15 per cent off, depending how many items the customer subscribes to. Prime members receive up to 20 per cent off.
This system benefits Amazon, since it is guaranteed a steady stream of orders. And thanks to the “lock-in” effect of subscription services, customers that start using Subscribe & Save may be more likely to buy more items on Amazon, since they are already shopping there.
That has some experts worried about the impact of Subscribe & Save on Australian supermarkets, which have traditionally relied on customers coming in for fresh fruit and veg and stocking up on unperishable pantry items while they’re at it.
“The Subscribe & Save model is a really smart move from Amazon, and I genuinely think incumbent players should feel nervous about if this model were to enter Australia,” Gary Mortimer, associate professor at QUT’s business school, told IR.
“We know subscription-based models tend to work because it’s very much a ‘set and forget’,” he said.
“Whether it’s Netflix, a gym membership, or Birchbox, the monthly fee comes out of your credit card; you don’t even see it, and it just arrives.”
And according to Mortimer, once supermarket customers start buying items such as toothpaste, dish soap and pet food elsewhere, they may decide to it’s just as easy to buy fresh produce and meat elsewhere too.
“The subscription-based service with an overall discount becomes quite an attractive offer. What that enables shoppers to do is get the basic, dry, packaged groceries delivered and then shop at their local greengrocer or butcher for everything else,” he said.