Amazon finally made its e-commerce service usable for international customers

Amazon is making a push to globalize its e-commerce service after it added a new international shipping feature to reach more than 100 countries.

The core Amazon service itself is still limited to a handful of countries — primarily the U.S., Western Europe, the Middle East, Australia and Singapore — but the new feature at least makes its mobile apps usable for those who live in other countries and want to buy items.

Now, by switching to this new international shipping mode, customers in markets where Amazon doesn’t have a local presence, can see products that can be shipped to their location. The app will also calculate additions such as shipping and handling costs and import fees.

Unfortunately, since this isn’t a full international launch, the actual selection of products and those additional charges — in particular the dread ‘import tax’ segment — hasn’t changed. Amazon is just made things clearer for international audiences, who previously had to scroll through products using a different Amazon country website (e.g. the U.S.) to find items that ship overseas.

That was very tedious and hardly worth the effort. Now, the service will show products that Amazon can deliver to a user’s location.

A small details perhaps, but it is a major step because the entire service suddenly becomes usable in over 100 countries, although the product range is limited and prices are subject to those aforementioned additional costs. For me, based in Thailand, those fees added some 75 percent to the price of some products, which, coupled with a wait for delivery, makes Amazon less attractive. But that’s offset by free delivery on large orders, although the total spend that qualifies for that appears to differ based on location.

Amazon explains how to access its international shipping mode

In true Amazon fashion, it isn’t saying exactly how many markets this international service reaches — other than “over a hundred countries” — but it did claim it has 45 million products that ship globally from U.S.-based sellers. The international service itself supports five languages — English, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, German and Brazilian Portuguese — with payment possible in 25 different currencies.

This new international product follows other global pushes for Amazon, which have included launching its Prime video streaming service in 200 countries, outing an international version of its Fire TV stick, and pushing its Echo smart speakers and Prime music service into 28 new countries.

International customers still don’t get anything like the full benefit of Amazon — which is the Prime package that gives e-commerce perks alongside free video and music streaming — but it is clear that Amazon is figuring out how it can begin to connect to a meaningful chunk of the global audience without needing to launch in every country. This international service might even help it identify markets with high demand for future local expansion.

Hopefully, the next step is to increase the volume of products that ship overseas and cut down on those international costs for customers.

“We are always innovating on behalf of our customers, and with today’s launch, we are making the shopping experience on mobile devices even better and more convenient for our customers who live outside the U.S.,” Samir Kumar, VP of Amazon Exports and Expansion, said in a statement. “Customers have been asking for a way to easily find and shop only for products available to be shipped to them.”