The 10 Best Add-on Items
October 15, 2018: Highly individualized products like mascara and freeze-dried foods were removed, replaced with more versatile options to suit a wider range of needs, such as cleaning supplies, lip balm, and batteries.
What Is An Add-On Item?
If you're an avid Amazon shopper, you're most likely familiar with the little blue banner that can be found on many product pages that reads "Add-on Item." There is no limit to the types of products that are designated as such, but they do tend to have a few qualities in common.
Add-ons came into existence in 2012 as a means of efficiently distributing products that were up until that point not lucrative enough for Amazon to sell on their own. Before their introduction, rather than buying one single permanent marker, for example, online shoppers might have had to buy a box of 12 or 24, or a set with a rainbow of colors just to get the one they wanted. The Add-on program is Amazon's way of allowing you to purchase things in smaller quantities without having to ship out countless low-value packages. Instead, they save money and labor by encouraging you to bundle multiple items together.
The number one commonality between all Add-on Items is that they cost less than $25. That's the threshold your order needs to surpass in order to include Add-ons, so by design, they must cost less than that amount. You can assemble an order of all Add-ons as long as they add up to more than $25, or you can simply add one of these low-priced items to an order of any other product, so long as the total adds up to at least the $25 minimum.
Add-on items are typically relatively light and small. Often, their weight adds little or nothing to the cost of shipping a package with other things in it, which is how they can be made available at such competitive prices. To put it another way, it costs roughly the same amount to ship a piece of furniture by itself as it does to ship that piece of furniture with a box of snacks, a single bottle of face wash, or a stapler. Were those items shipped individually, the cost of the small items would go up considerably. Since Amazon offers free or subsidized shipping on so many orders, they would have to build those costs into the prices of the products, causing something like a simple toothbrush to cost far more than it would in a store. By restricting items to Add-on status, they can circumvent that issue altogether.
Like their Amazon Basics line of products, the online retail giant created Add-ons in order to fill a real consumer need – small quantities of low-cost products delivered to your door. While you might experience some frustration around not being able to purchase products with the Add-on designation on their own, it's surely preferable to Amazon exclusively carrying them in bulk, let alone not carrying them at all.
What Else Can You Add?
You might be surprised by the sheer variety among available Add-on items. While there's no database on Amazon that catalogues everything in the category, it's easy to find options if you're looking to meet a shipping minimum.
Many consumer-grade makeup and hygienic products are available as Add-ons. These can vary from staples like deodorant, lotion, and toothpaste to low-cost beauty products. Aside from saving yourself a trip to the convenience store, it's also a great way to try out new products without committing to buying them in large quantities, especially those that aren't readily available in your area.
If you're a savvy parent, Add-ons can also be a great way to save some money come back-to-school season. Many school supplies like notebooks, pens, binders, and more can be found for cheap with the Add-on tag attached, and you can probably pull together a full order and reach the minimum without having to get too creative. Craft supplies are also on offer for those with creatively minded children.
Finally, it may be a bit counterintuitive to have such basic and locally available items shipped to you, but plenty of household staples can be found among Amazon's Add-on offerings, as well. From toilet paper to cleaning products and even snacks, there's really no shortage of options if you'd rather not leave the house to stock up. Just make sure you're home when the package arrives, because a whole trip to the post office to pick up some paper towels or granola bars would probably defeat the purpose of ordering them online in the first place. That being said, it can be hard for retail stores to compete with Amazon's cutthroat prices, so if you're just in it for the savings, you might not mind waiting for redelivery.
Using Add-Ons To Your Advantage
At times, it can seem like there is no limit to the products Amazon could offer. With services as diverse as web hosting and flower delivery, they're enmeshed in countless parts of modern life. While the concept of the Add-on Item may be somewhat confusing, at the very least, they're expanding what's available to consumers online. And while some sellers might not love the Add-on system, there are certainly many consumer advantages to the program.
If you're a relatively frequent Amazon shopper, it's a good idea to keep a healthy supply of low-cost products on your Wish List or saved in your shopping cart. That way, whenever you need something, you have an easily accessible list of products you can bundle with your order. This is useful if you need to hit a shipping minimum, but it's also a great way to spread out the cost of non-essential items across several purchases.
Many Add-ons are also available as a part of Amazon's "Subscribe & Save" program, through which you can set up regular shipments of your favorite or most needed-products. Putting together a package of things you regularly need at home for delivery every 3 months, for example, can save you both time and money in the long run.