Amazon Prime Pantry – Walk through for this new offering from Amazon

May 6, 2014

ChannelAdvisor Scot Wingo By Scot Wingo


In late April, Amazon introduced a new service exclusively to Prime members called Prime Pantry.  The day it launched, we put Prime Pantry through its paces and found the experience to be quite innovative.  In this blog post we’ll walk you through the user experience (UX) because we feel it’s important for sellers to understand how this new feature works.  In our first run through the Pantry, all items were 1P (sold by Amazon directly).  But knowing Amazon they frequently open these types of programs to third parties, and if they do it would be via the FBA service for third parties.

Why is Amazon doing this?

In the world of e-commerce there are items in the ‘death quadrant’ that are:

  • Heavy -This can be both true weight (liquids like Tide) or be high volume (e.g. paper  products like toilet paper or paper towels).  These types of products are expensive to ship, so are generally unavailable to Prime members (with the exception of some subcription items like diapers).
  • Low ASP – Typically these products are under $50 individually an often lower than $10.
  • Top sellers – your initial thought maybe, well this is heavy and cheap, why sell it?  Well if you looked at a ‘wallet’ for your family, these products typically are a big part of your non-food expenses.

Amazon insiders historically call this type of product CRAP (Can’t Reach A profit).  CRAP product is the mainstay of warehouse clubs, which is one segment of offline retail that Amazon hasn’t disrupted.  Amazon has tried several different programs (Amazon Fresh for example) around this product and Pantry is the latest and greatest.   In our experience, it’s a strong offering that I think many Prime users will try and because most of these types of products are re-ordered, the feature set around that will make Prime Pantry quite sticky.  In the Amazon Prime Pantry, Amazon calls these ‘everyday essentials’.

Finally, this type of product is frequently couponed by the manufacturer and the redemption rates on those are historically low (clip the coupon, remember it, marry it to the right item, redeem, etc.).

Introducing Prime Pantry

Prime Pantry is literally an entirely new way to shop on Amazon. Essentially you buy items that are ‘flagged’ Prime Pantry in a sub-section of Amazon and as you shop you fill up your Prime Pantry box.  This creates an entirely new (and I have to admit fun) experience of ‘filling/maximising’ your Pantry box.  As you’ll see in the walk through, there’s a persistent box and every item tells you the % of a box that it utilises.  This is delivered in the UX as a UI metaphor of a little box that you fill as you go through.  Each box costs $5.99 and takes 1-4 business days.

Prime Pantry walk through

When you start the buying experience, there is a good explanation of how the site works as well as a coupon centre if you prefer to start that way:


The first thing I did was click on a promotional item, which happened to be some Ivory body wash.  Here you see a good view of the Prime Pantry item page and what makes it unique:


First in the Ivory soap above, you see that the coupon is integrated right on the item page which is handy.  Second, you see that this item fills 4% of your Prime Pantry Box, also handy for gauging how many items to put in the box.

When you do a search and/or look at a category you can see that each summary highlights how much of the box it will fill and when you ‘hover’ over an item it shows you a little picture of your box and how full it is.  In the following example, my box was ~10% full and adding a big tide bottle pushed it to 21%:


Part of the fun of Prime Pantry is getting my box as close to 100% as possible.  I have to admit this caused me to buy more than I wanted.  Here I had it at 95.8% and I was able to add a package of granola bars to get it right up to 98%.


In this view of my cart, you can see the “% of box” column and the coupon clipping is reflected right in my cart which is different than the normal non-Prime Pantry buying experience.


In this view, I have completed checkout and my items are scheduled to be delivered 1-4 business days in the future:


The package arrives!

True to form, Amazon delivered the box in 1 business day and here’s what it looks like:


Note the HEAVY sticker. I thought it was pretty impressive that on the first day of the program, there was branded tape on the box already.  Here’s a close-up:



After opening the box, there was a pleasant surprise.  Inside it is two ‘interior boxes’ and they are designed to be able to be removable and come with handles.  This made lugging the heavier items around the house very helpful and we have already re-used these sub-boxes for several other sitatuations:


A couple of minor glitches in the pantry

Like any new offering there were a couple of un-Amazon-like glitches. For example, one of the highly promoted items was a 5-pack of Kraft Mac+Cheese, which was unavailable (and shouldn’t be promoted).


Another thing I found a little clunky is at the beginning I wasn’t as tuned in to the box % metaphor and kept spilling over in to two boxes unexpectedly.  It would have been nice for the UI to give me a warning – this jumbo can of kitty litter is going to cause you to add a Pantry box, do you want to do this?


Conclusion/thoughts on the experience

Minor nits aside, based on this early walk through Amazon Prime Pantry provides a great user experience, and as an existing Prime user, I plan on using it pretty frequently.  One nice feature I didn’t cover here is a handy re-order feature.  This got me thinking about creating a two-week box (snacks and beverages), monthly (tide and stuff) box and every-other month box and getting the whole thing automated.

We will keep an eye on this offering and recommend third-party sellers experiment with it to see if they want to work within the program if/when it opens up to third-party sellers (it would need to be through FBA most likely).

This blog was written by Scot Wingo, CEO of ChannelAdvisor.