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Amazon introduces free delivery for items weighing less than a big potato

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Retail giant Amazon will now offer free shipping in the US on a range of small and cheap items without requiring customers place a minimum order. Called "Fulfillment by Amazon Small and Light," the new service — detailed by Bloomberg yesterday — allows customers to place orders for items that weigh no more than 8 ounces (230 grams), with delivery taking between four and eight business days from a new shipping hub in Kentucky. Previously, buyers would need to place an order worth $35 or more, or have an Amazon Prime subscription to qualify for free shipping.

The service is available for items that weigh 8 ounces or less

Amazon started trialing the program 13 weeks ago, and discovered that items that offered free shipping without the standard $35 minimum order sold faster than standard items. Bloomberg says most the small items in question come from third-party retailers that give Amazon a portion of each sale after the retail giant handles storage, packaging, delivery, and customer service. Example items include makeup, mobile phone accessories, earplugs, and other goods that usually cost no more than $10.

While the move won't help Amazon make money in the short term, it will help it claw an even bigger market share from rivals such as Wal-Mart. Crucially, it could also pave the way for the company to start using drones to deliver lightweight items, a service that CEO Jeff Bezos has repeatedly stressed Amazon will adopt as standard in the coming years.