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Amazon Taps New Path for E-Commerce Domination

Amazon’s Uber-like delivery service may soon be carting the e-commerce company’s standard packages—all in the name of making deliveries even faster.

At present, Amazon Flex, as the company calls its on-demand delivery, helps get goods to customers in one- or two-hour time frames, but up to now those items have been just the standard common household goods for Prime Now members.

According to Reuters, however, Amazon has been quietly tapping its Flex drivers to deliver orders and not only those for Prime Now in an effort to control more of its own deliveries and cut back on the $11.5 billion it spent in shipping costs last year.

With Flex, Amazon crowdsources contract drivers and they carry packages to customers who use the Prime Now app, which comes with the retailer’s $99-a-year Prime membership. The service is currently available in 14 cities, including Miami, Austin, Atlanta and Las Vegas, with New York, Chicago and Portland next up to get Flex.

Now Amazon has invited those drivers to tap into “new delivery opportunities” the company reportedly wrote in an email to Flex drivers in recent weeks.

“That could be a huge difference for drivers,” according to Reuters. “Prime Now is a relatively niche service with tens of thousands of items, a fraction of the more than 200 million products on Amazon’s main e-commerce site.”

Amazon has been expanding its efforts to gain greater control over its own logistics and to speed deliveries. In the last several months, Amazon purchased thousands of semi-trucks to dispatch its own fleet of delivery trucks, and its China arm applied to become an ocean freight forwarder, meaning it would ship its own goods from China to the U.S. The company continues to toy with the idea of drone deliveries, too.

Using Flex drivers for its regular deliveries could help Amazon cut costs in way out areas where the smaller regional couriers that cart those packages can charge as much as 35 percent of the shipping cost for their services, Rob Howard, chief executive of logistics company Grand Junction, told Reuters.

“This is a huge competitive advantage for Amazon,” he said. “It’s not a death sentence yet for local carriers but it’s a new path.”