Amazon launches online retail in Australia

The world's biggest e-tailer has made its way to Australia ... 22 years after selling its first book.

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It's been a long time coming, but Amazon has finally launched in Australia.

The world's largest e-tailer launched the full-fledged version of its Australian retail site on Monday, giving customers Down Under the opportunity to buy everything from gadgets to clothing at Amazon.com.au. (The site has hosted a Kindle store since 2013, but Aussies haven't been able to buy anything more than ebooks).

For shoppers used to next-day delivery and Amazon Prime , Amazon's arrival in Australia may seem pretty late. After all, the company has been operating in the US for more than two decades. And it already has a well established overseas presence; it began selling books in the UK and Germany in 1998, just three years after launching in the US.

The company says it's focused on the long game in Australia. Country manager Rocco Braeuniger says Amazon hopes to "earn the trust and the custom of Australian shoppers in the years to come."

The Australian store launched with 23 categories, including electronics, DVDs, PCs and software. It also stocked general merchandise, like clothing, baby and beauty products. 

Amazon.com.au also sells Kindle eReaders (which were previously only available in Australia through third-party retailers) and the Fire TV Stick streaming device. 

It's a decent showing for Amazon.com.au's first day of trading as an online department store. Still, it's a fraction of what Amazon offers in other markets, like the US and UK. In the US, the retailing behemoth offers everything from fresh groceries to music and video streaming. It also sells the Amazon Echo range of smart speakers, powered by its voice assistant Alexa.

Amazon confirmed it will launch at least some of the Echo range in Australia, alongside Alexa and Amazon Music Unlimited, in early 2018. Aussies also anticipate fresh grocery delivery -- the company has been quietly hiring for its AmazonFresh business since the start of the year -- though there's no official launch news on this front.

Aussies will still have to wait for is Amazon Prime. The subscription service offers unlimited free delivery for $99 a year as well as perks like two-hour delivery, free TV streaming and deals delivered through Alexa. Amazon says it will bring Prime shipping benefits to Aussies from mid-2018, though there's no word yet on price or perks. 

In the US, Amazon offers two-hour shipping thanks to a strong network of fulfillment centers that were built up over 20 years of operations, as well as its in-house Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) shipping service. In Australia, the company is starting without FBA and just one warehouse on the outskirts of Melbourne in Australia's southeast, so instant gratification might be a while off. 

So where to from here? 

There's no doubt Amazon's push into Australia will help it get a stronger foothold in the Asia Pacific region as part of its broader global expansion plans. Amazon brought its popular Prime membership service to China and India last year, and bought Middle East e-commerce site Souq.com this year. But with rivals like Chinese giant Alibaba waiting in the wings, Amazon will be looking for new ways to grow sales, which stood at $43.7 billion for the third quarter of 2017.

It's still early days for Amazon in Australia and the hype is strong. It remains to be seen if shoppers will stick around for the long haul.

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