Amazon’s digital delivery of content is ever-expanding, but it’s also ramping up how quickly it is getting physical items to its customers at premium prices, and looping customers into longer subscription services in the process. Today, just weeks before the company’s mysterious press conference in Santa Monica, the company announced a new milestone in that effort: it’s now shipping more items via its Amazon Prime two-day delivery than it is on its lower-priced, longer Super-Saver service. And it also announced that in the seven years since Prime’s launch it has expanded the catalog of items to 15 million from 1 million.
The effort to push Prime (still only a U.S.-only service) is two-fold — and perhaps three-fold. It’s a sign of how Amazon continues to compete hard on its physical goods business — an area where it is seeing increasing competition and where it is currently looking to offer even faster turnaround times. It’s also a continuation of its effort to promote the wider Prime service, which also includes unmetered content streaming services for a flat fee of $79 per year. And… it just might be a hint about what we could expect in a couple of weeks.
Amazon also uses Prime as a marketing vehicle for its Kindle Fire tablets. Those who buy the tablets get one month of free Prime service, which costs $79 annually. Prime streaming is also available on non-Amazon devices such as compatible TVs and Blu-ray players, the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and iPad.
Amazon notes that there are now 180,000 books that are part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, along with 22,000 videos and TV episodes. Both started their services with just 5,000 items each.
Super Saver Shipping is offered on orders that are over $25, whereas the two-day service is free for all Prime subscribers.
The milestone was significant enough for Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, to comment in the official release — a mark of how important Prime is to Amazon’s wider business strategy around subscriptions and bringing in users for repeat business. In that statement, he also hinted that there might be more news to come soon (and I don’t think it’s a price hike per se for Prime, which Amazon notes hasn’t gone up in the seven years since it has launched as it tries to bring more and more customers into the subscription tier). The bolding is ours:
“Since Amazon launched in 1995, we’ve been focused on growing selection for our customers. Following the introduction of Amazon Prime in 2005, we’ve worked hard to grow Prime selection as well. We’re incredibly proud to be able to offer more than 15 million Prime items today…Even seven years later, the price of Prime remains unchanged at $79 a year. Amazon Prime is the best bargain in the history of shopping, and it’s going to keep getting better.”
Amazon also put out some other numbers on how its business is progressing. As usual with Amazon, we don’t get a full sense of hard sales numbers in any of this.
- Amazon says the top two items purchased with Prime Free Two-Day Shipping this year so far are the Kindle Fire and the $79 Kindle (Again, no numbers). Kindle Touch is number three and “Fifty Shades of Gray: Book One” is number four. Downton Abbey’s first season is the most popular TV show. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is the most popular film (in English). The Hunger Games is the most popular book.
- Amazon claims that Prime members could order 500 different items with Prime Free Two-Day Shipping every day of their lives and still not order every Prime item.
- In a given week, 96.4 percent of the Prime Instant Video catalog is viewed — that’s some amazing traction there and a testament to how the company calibrates its search and recommendation algorithms.
And we’ve seen the huge number of content adds that Amazon has been announcing in the last few weeks. Here’s another data point on that. In 2012 to date, the number of video titles has gone from 13,000 to over 22,000, an increase of 70%, it says.