Reducing Friction with Amazon Prime Now

A couple days after Noel (@noelportugal) wrote about reducing user friction, I got a chance to try one of Amazon’s latest friction-reducing services, Amazon Prime Now.

The likes of Webvan pioneered grocery delivery back in the dot com days, and fun fact, Amazon owns and continues to operate what is left of Webvan. In those halcyon days, I used Webvan quite a bit. Sounds a bit silly, but being able to order groceries online and have them delivered within the hour felt like living in the future.

Alas, like jetpacks, the future had to wait a bit.

Well, the future is now, erm, again, at least in some cities. Amazon Prime Now launched in Manhattan in December, and I’ve followed its progress eagerly awaiting the happy day when Prime Now launched in Portland. That day came on August 26, and last week, I tried out Prime Now for the first time.

Prime Now offers Amazon Prime members in participating cities free two-hour delivery of various items, not just groceries, from Amazon and several other local stores. You can pay $7.99 for one-hour delivery.

Read that again, it’s not just groceries. I browsed the Amazon store and found plenty of other items, e.g. Amazon Echo, one of our favorite gadgets.


Perfect for scratching that itch for (near) instant gratification, or (almost) last-minute gift ideas.

So, my wife and I decided to order some groceries for dinner from our local market, New Seasons (@newseasons), one of the participating local stores in Portland.



Prime Now only has a mobile app for now, which makes browsing a bit cumbersome, and item availability for delivery depends on the stores. Eventually, we found all the stuff we needed and upon checking out were presented with several delivery times, most of which were taken. Makes sense, it’s a very new service, so I’m sure the stores are measuring demand before committing too many resources.

We chose the 6-8 PM delivery window, and around 6, the person collecting the order texted us to say two items we’d chosen were out of stock. He recommended substitutions, and the order was on its way.


Screenshot_2015-09-03-19-28-52Similar to Uber and Lyft, Prime Now has a map showing the store and your location as a means for status updates on the order, although it doesn’t have a moving icon to show the driver’s progress.

The order arrived easily within the 6-8 PM window, and everything was as expected. One nice feature, the Prime Now app allows for a tip on checkout, so no awkwardness at the door.


There were some unexpected hiccups, but we agreed that Prime Now was worth future tries. I expect as the service is used, the demand should prompt ironing out of the hiccups we encountered.

Like Domino’s, Amazon is moving fast to remove friction between its goods and services and its customers with testing services like drone delivery, restaurant food delivery, the growing list of features the Echo offers, the Dash restocking buttons and its Fresh service.

These services overlap each other, which speaks to Amazon’s culture, but presumably, we, the consumers, will benefit.

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