The launch of Amazon South Africa is far from prime

  • Amazon has finally launched its South African store after announcing its intent last year in October.
  • However the launch is disappointing due to a lack of internationally available products, Amazon Prime offers and an incomplete storefront.
  • It is still early for Amazon, and the company can still right many of these wrongs in the next few months.

After eight months of waiting, Amazon South Africa has launched for local customers, who can now head to its storefront – – and start ordering from the American ecommerce giant.

The website was brought online without an announcement earlier this week, but today Amazon has officially launched in the country and must now compete against a host of other firms, including the likes of other recent newcomer Temu.

This also means that the local Amazon mobile shopping app is live for smartphones.

South African users can now order on the site, pay and have their orders delivered to them. However, some may notice some missing elements on the site, and perhaps fewer and less exciting products than they would have liked, at least compared to Amazon’s US website counterpart, and local competitors like Takealot.

Officially, Amazon South Africa says that “customers can now discover and shop from a selection of local and international brands across 20 different product categories,” and while that may be true, some of the categories lead to pages with products that are not yet available.

For example, in the gaming category, we see several products that are not yet available to purchase, and one placeholder product. There is also an unusually expensive 1TB PlayStation 4 (PS4) console going for R14 067. Normally this model of the PS4 doesn’t go above R10 000.

You can even find PlayStation 5 (PS5) consoles that are cheaper out there, from the likes of Makro, for example.

Speaking of PS5s, Amazon South Africa currently doesn’t stock any PS5 consoles. In fact, its Gaming section is quite strange in terms of the products that it contains. For some reason, it has included a Xiaomi USB charger, a Canon Inkjet printer and wall lights alongside other “Consoles.”

To us, this is a marker that the platform is still being worked on.

Perhaps they rushed the launch, or believed they were ready. Some product categories have over 400 pages worth of items on sale, and while impressive we have noticed a few discrepancies in the tech and gadget sections.

One of which is that Amazon is selling a pair of kids’ cat ear headphones for more than the same product is selling on Takealot.

Usually, Amazon tries to sell for cheaper than its competitors.

There is also a distinct lack of Amazon Prime subscription offers for the local shop, and a lack of internationally available products. Amazon Prime brings free deliveries, exclusive deals for subscribers and other benefits for those that buy from Amazon often.

The lack of a wider catalogue of international products causes an issue, because if you’re a South African user and you try to buy a product listed on Amazon US, you will be redirected to the South African version where that product will likely not be available.

We should have seen this coming. While customers may have been expecting Amazon to bring more internationally available products locally, which could be exciting, such as certain books and toys that are available in the US shop, Amazon SA has, since its first announcements, said that they would be supporting local businesses in listing their products instead.

“Building a strong relationship with South African brands and businesses—small or large—is incredibly important to us. We want to be the place where they can reach millions of customers,” said Robert Koen, managing director for Amazon Sub-Saharan Africa.

While this is a good thing for smaller local businesses, it is disappointing for local customers wanting something different than what is already available.

At this point, Amazon South Africa is essentially an unfinished version of what we already have on offer in South Africa from the likes of Takealot, Loot, Koodoo and many other ecommerce stores hosting locally.

But the local shop of the world’s largest ecommerce firm is still young, and perhaps we could expect a wider variety of products in the near future. Especially since if they were more confident with the storefront, they would have made the launch a bigger deal. Currently, this just seems like a soft launch.

Either way, Amazon is trying to sweeten the deal for South Africans by including free delivery for the first order.


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