With free shipping offer, Amazon launches 8th language option: Hebrew

Retail giant offers search, product listings and even customer support in new language; launch comes with limited-time offer of free international shipping to Israel

Illustrative: An Amazon fulfillment center processes orders in Aurora, Colorado, May 3, 2018. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Illustrative: An Amazon fulfillment center processes orders in Aurora, Colorado, May 3, 2018. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Hebrew became the eighth language on Monday through which online shoppers can access the world’s largest e-commerce site, Amazon.com.

The online retail behemoth launched a new Hebrew-language interface on Monday with a special promotion offering free shipping to Israel for some 50 million “eligible items.”

In an announcement Monday, the company said the new Hebrew “shopping experience” targeted both Israelis and Hebrew-speakers abroad, and was available on the site’s desktop, mobile browser and mobile app iterations.

Hebrew now joins English, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Korean, and simplified and traditional Chinese as options on the website’s language translation menu.

“Customers can now browse and shop in Hebrew and choose to shop in many currencies, including [New] Israeli Shekel,” the company said.

Screenshot of Amazon.com in Hebrew, as launched on November 11, 2019.

Those shipping to and from Israel will be able to “see clear pricing, shipping costs, and duty and tax estimates, with Amazon coordinating customs clearance on behalf of the customer, so there are no surprises at the time of purchase or delivery. Returning items back to Amazon is now easier with the launch of prepaid return labels,” it promised.

The move marks another expansion of Amazon’s offerings in Israel, after its launch of retail operations in September. That launch was limited, as the Israel-focused Amazon site was still in English, and the company declined to set up a local logistics center, meaning that Israeli merchants who wished to list their products had to supply them directly to consumers from their own warehouses.

The new language offering is a significant step forward in enabling Israelis to make use of the site’s interface, according to the company, allowing product searches, listings of product details and even customer service to take place in Hebrew.

To help the new Hebrew site take off with Israeli buyers, the company is also launching a limited-time promotion that offers free international shipping to Israel on “eligible orders over $49.” Details about the promotion are on the Amazon website.

Israelis who buy from a foreign site are exempt from high Israeli sales taxes for orders below $75, while orders up to $500 are free from customs fees, making it attractive to buy most consumer products from abroad, analysts say.

Illustrative: In this Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017, photo, a clerk picks an item from a shelf and scans it with a hand-held device to fill a customer order at the Amazon Prime warehouse in New York. (AP)

The decision to launch in Hebrew comes from consumer demand, the company said. “Customers have been asking for a Hebrew language shopping experience, with access to items available to be shipped to them, and available in their local currency,” the company’s vice president of Amazon Exports and Expansion, Samir Kumar, explained in a statement.

The September launch of an Israel-focused site offered what Amazon terms “local delivery,” letting Israeli companies sell their products directly to Israeli consumers without going through retail stores.

At that launch, analysts said the initial impact on the Israeli retail industry likely “won’t be dramatic,” as Ilanit Sherf, head of research at Psagot Brokerage, a unit of Israel’s largest investment firms, told The Times of Israel. “There won’t be a booming impact, but it will grow with time.”

Ilanit Sherf, head of research at Psagot Brokerage, a unit of Israel’s largest investment house (Courtesy)

And while retail would be hurt, Amazon’s penetration into the Israeli market would also bring good news to Israel’s economy, “offering Israeli manufacturers a way to reach global audiences” and local stores that cannot afford to set up branches within malls new avenues to reach customers, Sherf said.

Indeed, Israelis have already been doing a great deal of their shopping on Amazon, mainly through the company’s British, German and US sites, noted Yaniv Pagot, an economist and head of strategy at the Ayalon Group, an institutional investor.

“Amazon is already here, and I can already buy from Amazon,” he said in September. “I don’t see a local operation significantly impacting the market, and I don’t believe it will significantly deter traffic from our malls or our stores.”

Amazon’s entry into the Israeli market is part of a trend to online shopping that will only expand in the future, Sherf said.

“Language is a major barrier” to Israelis turning to Amazon, she said. “If the service is more accessible, and the interfaces friendlier, then people will find it easier to buy, and this will lower a psychological barrier that many have.”

Shoshanna Solomon contributed to this report.

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