Amazon Prime has been around for a while now—15 years to be exact. The subscription service has continued to evolve over the last decade and a half, continually setting the standard for ecommerce subscriptions and delivery.
“Prime membership continues to get better for customers year after year. And customers are responding—more people joined Prime this quarter than ever before, and we now have over 150 million paid Prime members around the world,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO in the company’s 2019 Q4 earnings report.
“We’ve made Prime delivery faster—the number of items delivered to U.S. customers with Prime’s free one-day and same-day delivery more than quadrupled this quarter compared to last year. Members now have free two-hour grocery delivery from Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods Market in more than 2,000 U.S. cities and towns. Prime members watched double the hours of original movies and TV shows on Prime Video this quarter compared to last year, and Amazon Originals received a record 88 nominations and 26 wins at major awards shows,” Bezos continued.
So what exactly has it taken to get Amazon to the growth and dominance it has today? Let’s take a look back to the launch of Amazon Prime and look at the ever-evolving benefits Amazon has added over the years to grow this program to over 150 million subscribers worldwide.
A timeline of Amazon Prime
Amazon launched their Prime subscription in February of 2005 at the initial price point of $79 a year, offering unlimited 2-day delivery on over 1 million in-stock items (or as they announced it “all-you-can-eat express shipping”).
This screenshot shows Jeff Bezos initial announcement letter to the public.
This was the beginning of what is now one of, if not the largest subscription programs in the world. Amazon continues to add benefits to its Prime offering, and here are some of the key ones that stood out to me over the years.
Amazon launched Fulfilled by Amazon. This service allows sellers to have an Amazon store and ship their products for a fee. These products then become eligible for Amazon Prime, thus growing available assortment and selection for customers.
Amazon included Prime Video in Prime subscription. Amazon first introduced an internet video service in 2006 (Amazon Unbox) but added the perk of free access to “unlimited, commercial-free instant streaming of more than 5,000 movies and TV shows” to paying Prime members in February of 2011.
This was a big year for Amazon Prime. First, Amazon raised the price of Prime from $79 to $99. That same year, Amazon also launched Prime Pantry. Amazon Pantry offers Prime members a different way to shop, allowing them to purchase daily essentials in everyday sizes and have items delivered for a low, flat-rate fee in an Amazon Pantry box.
Amazon also launched Amazon Music in 2014. Amazon Music gives subscribers to Amazon’s Prime service access to thousands of songs free and without interruptions from advertising.
Amazon Photos was also launched that year. Amazon Photos offers Prime members free secure unlimited photo storage with Prime Photos.
Lastly, Amazon launches Amazon Now in 2014. Amazon Now is a stand alone app offering free two-hour delivery and one-hour delivery for $7.99 in select areas.
Amazon created Amazon Prime Day to celebrate the company's 20th anniversary. Prime Day offered Prime members exclusive deals on a wide range of products for 24 hours. The Prime Day event is so successful it becomes an annual tradition.
Amazon announced same day delivery expanded to 27 metro areas.
Amazon introduced Prime Reading. Prime Reading includes a rotating selection of more than 1,000 books and magazines that Prime members can read for free.
Amazon partnered with Chase on the launch of Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card. The credit card is offered exclusively to Prime members and offers 5% back at Amazon (and now Whole Foods) among other benefits.
Amazon launched Prime Wardrobe. Prime wardrobe is a try before you buy service for fashion and accessories.
“Sift through hundreds of clothes, shoes, jewelry, and accessories, select up to eight items that spark your interest, and we’ll send a Prime Wardrobe box directly to your door,” the service advertises. Prime members then have 7 days to try on and select any item they want to keep before returning the rest via a prepaid shipping label and a dropoff at the closest UPS location.
That same year, Amazon launched Amazon Key. Amazon Key allows Prime members to receive Amazon packages delivered to their garage, home, or car without a key via an app. Due to COVID-19, this is only available currently for in-garage and in-gate delivery.
Then, Amazon acquired Whole Foods in 2017 and began offering exclusive Prime benefits.
Amazon announced a price increase for Prime from $99 to $119—the current price. An Amazon Prime subscription went from $79 in 2005, increasing by $40 over the last 15 years since Amazon offered the service.
Amazon expanded Prime Free One Day to members with no minimum purchase amount on more than ten million products.
Amazon offered Amazon Fresh as a free benefit of Prime. Prime members in select cities can shop for groceries, everyday essentials, and more with Amazon Fresh. Amazon Fresh is available exclusively to Amazon Prime members by invitation only.
Last year, Amazon also launched Amazon Day. Amazon Prime members could then order throughout the week and select FREE Amazon Day Delivery to get all their items in fewer boxes on a single day, rather than separate boxes on multiple days.
Lastly for 2019, Amazon extended additional discounts to Amazon Prime Members on Subscribe and Save orders. Prime members could then unlock 20% savings on subscriptions on items like diapers and baby food when they received 5 or more products in one auto-delivery to one address.
This year, Amazon has expanded Same-Day Delivery. Prime members in Philadelphia, Phoenix, Orlando, and Dallas get faster Same-Day Delivery—from click to doorstep in just a few hours. Although the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted distribution lines at the onset of the year, Amazon has mostly recovered in the months since, at least in the eyes of customers.
Amazon has also launched Prime Gaming (formerly Twitch Prime) this year. Through this service, Amazon Prime members receive free games, exclusive in-game loot, and a free subscription on Twitch.tv.
We hope you learned some new Amazon Prime membership benefits you can take advantage of in our Amazon Prime timeline. Please feel free to reach out and let us know what features we may have missed. You can find Amazon’s comprehensive benefit list here.
If you are a consumer brand looking to grow an established Amazon presence and take advantage of some of the benefits as an Amazon Seller, contact a Pattern Amazon expert below.