In the on-demand economy, Amazon Prime’s longstanding free two-day delivery just doesn’t cut it anymore, because two days isn’t on-demand—it’s two days. That might be why Amazon seems to be rushing out same-day delivery to its membership program as fast as possible. On Thursday it said the service will be free for Prime members in 14 metro areas on orders of qualifying items over $35:
Amazon says that its free same-day delivery covers more than a million items. Prime subscribers will pay $5.99 per order for anything less than $35 while the service will start at $9.98 per order for nonmembers. That said, the “same-day” means something closer to a 24-hour day than the same calendar day. Order by noon and Amazon says your package will arrive by 9 p.m.; order any later than that and it will come the following day.
Same-day delivery isn’t the only on-demand option Amazon has been experimenting with. In late December, Amazon announced Prime Now, which promised to deliver eligible items in under an hour for $7.99, or later in the day for free. At the time, Prime Now was only available in central Manhattan, but since has expanded to all of Manhattan and Brooklyn as well as parts of Miami and Baltimore. In late March, Amazon also introduced the “Dash Button” for Prime members—brand-specific buttons that facilitate preset orders with a single touch. (For example, pressing the Tide dash button might initiate a new order of laundry detergent.)
Amazon’s push into faster delivery options marks its latest effort in a race among retailers to win the same-day shipping market. Google last summer introduced a similar same-day delivery program with Google Express. Walmart and eBay have also recently begun testing subscriber programs for unlimited free or cheap delivery. On top of that, there are the true on-demand economy companies like Uber and Sidecar, which on top of promising to pick up and transport people nearly instantaneously have also started to transport things. For Amazon to keep Prime great, it needs to keep the core delivery options great. So when everything else starts to become same-day focused, Amazon’s delivery needs to as well.