Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has never been the most forthcoming company beyond what it's legally required to release as a publicly traded company.
Typically it has kept facts secret, such as how many people pay to be members of its Prime service, how many Kindle tablets it has sold, and other relevant data. This holiday season, however, Amazon has been much more vocal than usual, and it's crowing about its results. This might be an attempt to divert attention from the $437 million loss it reported for the most recent quarter (up from $41 million for the same period in 2013). But recently the company was more forthcoming with a few pieces of holiday sales data that it essentially shouted from the rooftop.
And while some good holiday news does not erase past losses, it may suggest that CEO Jeff Bezos' plan of investing heavily now for a far-off future may ultimately pay off.
Amazon Prime remains relevant
Amazon's Prime membership has been a revenue driver for the company since people who join the service spend significantly more on Amazon.com than non-members. As you can see on the chart below, Prime members spend more money with the retailer over a 90-day period, according to a survey from RBC, which found that Prime subscribers spend an average of $538 a year on Amazon.com versus $320 a year spent by nonsubscribers.
Those numbers validate why Prime remains important to Amazon, which has fortified the service's free two-day shipping for members with a video and music service. Still, with the cost of Prime rising from $79 to $99 last year and more items being delivered digitally, the holidays stood as a test as to whether people were still willing to pony up $99 to join.
Prime passed that test with flying colors as Amazon reported in a press release that it added 10 million new members worldwide during the holiday season.
Amazon devices are selling
While the company stopped short of offering specific sales totals, a number of Amazon devices -- including both models of its Fire TV set-top digital streaming device -- sold well. This is important because, much like Prime subscribers, people who own Amazon devices spend more with the retailer. Kindle owners, for example, spend almost 30% more with Amazon than non-Kindle owners – $457 a year versus $361 a year, according to RBC.
It's too early in the product life-cycle for Fire TV to project out if the same holds true, but it's hard to imagine it won't as simply having an Amazon box plugged into your television makes easier to shop. That may be why Amazon shared some data in its holiday press release as to how its devices sold:
- Amazon Fire TV is the best-selling streaming media box on Amazon.com this holiday season.
- Fire TV Stick, Fire HD 6 and Fire HD 7 were among the most wished-for items on Amazon.com this holiday season.
- Fire tablet sales on Amazon.com were up over three times year over year this Black Friday; Kindle e-reader sales on Black Friday grew nearly four times year over year.
- Fire TV Stick is the fastest-selling Amazon device ever.
Amazon is agile and global
One area where Amazon has not been stingy with data is reporting in a fanciful fashion what people bought over the holiday and how they bought it. This year's report -- amid fanciful details including "Amazon customers purchased enough Elsa dolls to reach the top of Cinderella's castle 855 times" -- offered some insight into the scope of the company.
Most importantly, Amazon's release made it clear that the brand has managed to grow its audience as people move away from websites and more toward mobile devices. Nearly 60% of Amazon.com customers shopped using a mobile device this holiday, according to the company. Mobile shopping accelerated as it got closer to Christmas. While total sales through the retailer's smartphone app doubled from last year, Cyber Monday remained the company's peak mobile shopping day and Black Friday had the most rapid growth in mobile shopping.
And in addition to selling enough "commercial butane torches to caramelize 31,000 crème brulees," Amazon also shipped to 195 countries, expanded Sunday delivery across the United States, and shipped more than 10 times as many items with same-day delivery items as it did in 2013.
Daniel Kline owns shares of Apple. He bought a fair amount on Amazon during the holiday period. He is a Prime member. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Apple, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), and Netflix. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple, Google (A shares), Google (C shares), and Netflix. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.