No one knows for sure how many consumers are members of Amazon.com's (AMZN 4.44%) Prime loyalty program. The company broke a long silence in early 2018 to say subscriber rolls had topped 100 million worldwide, but that was the last official figure Amazon released about its Prime membership.
While Amazon hasn't provided any updates, it's currently estimated that 105 million -- or 82% of the 127 million of U.S. households -- have an Amazon Prime account, according to market research company Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP).
With Black Friday and the ensuing holiday shopping season kicking off in just a week, the question many of the holdouts are asking themselves is "Should I finally sign up for Amazon Prime?"
Free one-day shipping and much, much more
The biggest draw for many consumers is the expedited shipping -- and Amazon recently took its delivery-speed up a notch. After providing two-day or faster shipping for years, Prime customers can now get millions of items in just one day. That can be a big incentive for those who want to avoid the soul-crushing experience of Black Friday bargain hunting and the hordes of customers at big-box stores and shopping malls.
While expedited shipping is the most publicized benefit of Prime membership, there are many more. In an era where streaming video increasingly becomes the norm rather than the exception, Prime members gain access to a growing library of award-winning Amazon Originals, a catalog of popular older movies and television programs, and a host of live events -- all included with membership. The platform also makes it easy to sign up for more than 100 partner channels, including Showtime and AT&T's HBO and Cinemax, as well as niche favorites like IFC, AMC Network's Shudder, and Britbox -- and watch them all in one place.
For music lovers, Amazon offers Prime Music, providing unlimited ad-free access to more than 2 million popular songs and hundreds of Prime playlists. Members also get discounts on Amazon Music Unlimited, which offers more than 50 million songs for the serious audiophile at $7.99 per month for Prime subscribers, a 20% discount off the regular price.
Amazon also offers benefits for gaming enthusiasts via Twitch, the world's leading live streaming platform for gamers. Twitch.TV users who link their Amazon Prime account get a free Twitch channel subscription each month and exclusive access to free gaming content. Members also receive exclusive discounts on preorder games.
Then there's Amazon Prime Day. Billed as the company's "Black Friday in July," the customer-appreciation day sale -- which stretched to 48 hours in 2019 -- offers some of the company's best deals of the year, with a rotating list of deeply discounted products and new flash sales every hour.
A holiday bonanza
While the everyday benefits offer plenty of enticement for customers to join Prime, the holiday deals may provide the biggest incentive. While the holiday shopping season officially begins on Black Friday, Amazon offers more than a week of deals and discounts, which kick off on Friday, Nov. 22. The company is offering a laundry list of its most popular items at big discounts, including the Fire 7 tablet for $29 (40% off), $50 on the Echo Show 8 for $99, and the Echo Dot for $35, 30% off the retail price.
The tech giant is also offering steep discounts on a laundry list of televisions, smartphones, electronics, toys and games, apparel, and more -- with far too many deals to list here -- at savings of between 15% and 60%.
Why all the deals?
All retailers offer a host of deals for the holidays, so why does Amazon offer so many other benefits to its Prime subscribers? The answer is simple economics. Once they lay out the annual membership fee, Prime customers want to get their money's worth, spending an average of $1,400 per year, more than double the $600 nonmembers spend, according to data earlier this year from CIRP.
Subscriber renewal rates improve over time, too. Sixty-four percent of trial members convert to a paid membership, 93% of members renew after the first year, and 98% continued their subscription after two years.
But what about for just Black Friday?
One of the most appealing points about Amazon Prime for holiday shoppers is the 30-day free trial. Customers can sign up, avail themselves of all the holiday deals -- which are only a keystroke away -- and cancel within a month if they're not satisfied.
To get in on the deals, Amazon customers pay $119 per year or $12.99 per month, so it's easy to see why consumers flock to the program, given the slew of benefits that come with membership.
Consumers truly have nothing to lose -- and plenty to save -- by signing up for the free-trial. Who knows? Once customers sign up for the holiday deals and see how easy it is to avoid the traffic and crowded stores, you may just stick around, as I did.