In his annual shareholders' letter released today, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos revealed, for the first time, the number of Prime members around the world. Amazon Prime began 13 years ago and today counts more than 100 million members.
Prime members pay $99 a year or $12.99 a month for the service and receive many benefits including access to Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service and exclusive deals. Analysts have speculated for years as to the numbers of Amazon members but up to now, the company has never disclosed that information.
The letter comes a day after the online retailer announced it will end its Whole Foods reward program and fold it into Prime. In February, Prime’s free two-hour delivery was extended to include Whole Foods purchases over $35.
The letter also stated that Amazon Prime had its best year in 2017 shipping over five billion products and signing up more new members than in any other year (4 million in a week in late 2017). In January, Kantar Consulting estimated that 45% of households in the US were Amazon Prime subscribers.
A focus on high standards
Bezos began his letter by discussing customers’ “divinely discontent” nature. He praised this quality, stating he loved it, and asked how the company could stay ahead of clients' “ever-rising” expectations.
His answer was through high standards, a topic that was discussed at length in the letter. “Building a culture of high standards is well worth the effort, and there are many benefits," Bezos wrote.
The entrepreneur explained that “high standards are teachable” and can be taught through exposure. “High standards are contagious. Bring a new person onto a high standards team, and they’ll quickly adapt. The opposite is also true,” Bezos wrote.
Bezos urged his team to be realistic saying that “unrealistic beliefs on scope – often hidden and undiscussed – kill high standards.” The entrepreneur instructed his employees “to form and proactively communicate realistic beliefs about how hard something is going to be – something this coach understood well.”
Bezos also addressed milestones within the last year such as upgrades to Alexa and the addition of new Prime benefits such as two-minute order fulfillment at Instant Pickup sites and free access to Echo game Double Jeopardy. He added that 2017 was the company’s best year yet for Amazon devices hardware sales.
The letter marked the 20th anniversary of the company’s first shareholder letter and came with an attachment of the retailer’s first 1997 letter. Bezos credited these milestones to the company’s 560,000 employees and to its “2 million sellers, hundreds of thousands of authors, millions of AWS developers, and hundreds of millions of divinely discontent customers around the world who push to make us better each and every day.”
Bezos added that Amazon’s “core values and approach remain unchanged” and that retailer continues “to aspire to be Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Amazon is scheduled to release its quarterly earnings on April 26.