In 2012, American internet entrepreneur, angel investor, author and blogger Jason Calacanis gave a pretty bold prediction about Amazon Prime — then in its seventh year of existence.
“There are two types of people in the world: those with Amazon Prime and those without,” Calacanis wrote. “How you think about consumption, commerce and your personal time is radically different depending on if you’ve join the cult — yet. And to be clear, Prime is a cult you will be joining.”
Flash forward another six years to this week when Amazon gave the world its first official peek at its Prime membership numbers, and it seems Calacanis’ crystal ball was working just fine in 2012.
According to CEO Jeff Bezos’ annual letter to shareholders last week, Prime now has over 100 million members to call its own — the first time Amazon has published the number of people who have signed up to its $99-per-year membership program.
It was among the more specific stats Bezos had to offer investors. In other areas, Amazon was more like its historical self around releasing numbers: positive, but vague.
For example, Amazon reported its best year for hardware sales with “tens of millions of Alexa devices sold” as well as a banner year for music, which now has “tens of millions of paid customers.”
It was a big year for “tens of millions.”
But on the subject of Prime, Bezos had more than just a staggering official headcount to offer; there was also all that shopping Prime members did last year.
“In 2017, Amazon shipped more than 5 billion items with Prime worldwide, and more new members joined Prime than in any previous year — both worldwide and in the U.S. Members in the U.S. now receive unlimited free two-day shipping on over 100 million different items,” Bezos wrote.
It’s a big achievement to be sure, and in honor of it, we thought we would offer a salute to Prime: its customers, their unique buying habits and how they’ve redefined the term “beer goggles” for an entire generation.
The Cult of Prime
If Prime members had their own country, it would land somewhere between the 10th-largest nation on Earth (Mexico, population: 129 million people) and the 13th (the Philippines, population: 103 million).
It would be the most retail-enthused nation in human history. According to estimates, the average Amazon Prime member spends about $1,300 per year on products from Amazon — slightly less than twice the $700 per year a non-member spends, and that figure is growing. Moreover, Prime members are also happy Amazon customers: Cowen and Company reported that 95 percent of Prime subscribers said they’ll either “definitely” or “probably” renew, up from 94 percent during the same period last year.
And they’re not just loyal to the Prime program; they’re loyal to Amazon. The reason Amazon customers spend double what their non-Prime counterparts spend is that Amazon really is a one-stop shopping experience for many Prime members.
“One of the most interesting things we found in the study is that Amazon is truly the ‘one-stop shop’ for consumers,” Claudia Hoeffner, Feedvisor’s vice president of global marketing, told Forbes. “Consumers go to Amazon for almost every activity possible in their shopping experience. And, for activities like browsing for new deals and discounts, comparing prices and checking availability, Amazon is head and shoulders above other marketplaces and retailers.”
That rather single-minded dedication to Amazon among its members is borne out by the numbers.
About 85 percent of Prime shoppers visit Amazon at least once a week, while 56 percent of non-Prime shoppers report the same. Prime customers also come to the site locked and loaded to buy, and nearly half (45 percent) convert once a week. But shopping isn’t always the first reason Prime members show up on the site. They come to compare prices 51 percent of the time, and 44 percent of Prime customers won’t buy someplace else without making a quick price check on Amazon first.
And what are those people buying?
Oh, the Things You Can Buy
Have you ever been flossing your teeth, satisfied with the plaque-fighting properties of floss, but somehow wished it tasted more like bacon? Well, Amazon has good news for you. Not only can you get bacon-flavored dental floss, you can also get an entire bacon-scented suite of bathroom products.
Love champagne but feel like you would love it more if it were easier to chug? Don’t worry, Amazon can offer you a set of two Chambongs — a glass flute designed for “rapid Champagne consumption.” As of yet, an Amazon Prime membership does not offer a way to book the stint in rehab that one might need if Chambongs became a daily habit, but Jeff Bezos is looking into starting a healthcare company, so stay tuned…
Mad about your roommate stealing your Ben & Jerry’s? Meet the Euphori-Lock — a combination lock for your ice cream lid that will make it impossible to open. From the top. Ben & Jerry’s packaging is made of cardboard, so if said roommate really wants your ice cream, the container can easily be ripped apart. But if the thief can be deterred by a lock, this will do it.
You may be asking yourself: Do people really buy this stuff?
Oh, yes, they do. In fact, some of Amazon’s highest-rated and most-beloved items by the ecstatic reviews are also incredibly weird. Ever wish you could incorporate snail slime into your beauty regimen? Well, you might want to consider it, if the rave reviews are to be believed. Ever wonder why your shower curtain doesn’t have mesh pockets for your shampoo? That product also exists and is loved by thousands.
And the weird love is persistant. Ever feel like you wanted to be able to shampoo your hair and brush it at the same time? If the reviews are to be believed, this is the best $15 investment you can possibly make. Skin feeling rough, and the snail slime didn’t help? Don’t worry, there’s sheep placenta for your skin care needs.
Amazon has certainly come a long, long way from its early days as a bookstore.
And while it may strain credulity to believe all of these things have active buyer communities, it helps to remember one small thing: People buy a lot of weird things and for a lot of weird reasons.
Jeff Bezos famously noted a few years ago that he wanted Prime to become so useful a service that a customer would be “irresponsible” not to sign on.
Today — with 100 million-plus users and growing — it’s safe to say he’s made his case pretty well.
We look forward to seeing how Amazon plans on capturing the next 100 million.