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Amazon launches Prime in China

29 October 2016

Eleven years after its US launch, Amazon has debuted its Prime free shipping programme in China, the world's second largest economy.

Starting Friday, Chinese Prime users would be able to get free shipping on orders for overseas products with a minimum purchase for 200 yuan ($29.50), Amazon China said on its website. Goods sold within China would be delivered for free.

Chinese customers would not get the one or two-day shipping options enjoyed by some Prime members in the US, their orders still had an estimated average delivery time of five to nine days, and single orders of over 2,000 yuan ($295) could potentially take longer, the company said.

Chinese subscribers would, however, pay appreciably less than their US counterparts, at 388 yuan ($57), as against $99.

According to some commentators, the move came as a bold attempt by Amazon to take on Alibaba on its own turf. Alibaba had been loudly pitching its Singles' Day, the e-commerce giant's annual online shopping festival on 11 November also known as the country's own version of Cyber Monday.

However, it was not immediately clear whether Amazon's, Prime package in China would include the online video and music streaming services that were available to members in other countries. Apple and Disney had to shut down online video services due to the country's tightly regulated market, earlier this year.

Amazon, however, continued to be a minor player in China's e-commerce landscape, much behind Alibaba, according to analysts. This new offering would likely not change that for the company, but the US company could look to tapping China's growing middle class.

"If they can offer products and brands the other guys aren't, this could really work for them," said Ben Cavender, a senior analyst with China Market Research Group in Shanghai", CNN Money reported. They have so much data about what goods are popular overseas, they may be able to anticipate what products will be popular ... in China."

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