January 7, 2014, 10:56 AM

20 million and counting: A new estimate for Amazon Prime membership

Macquarie Equities Research says Amazon confirms that Prime has signed up at least 20 million households for the $79-a-year shipping program.

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Amazon Prime program has at least 20 million paid members, according to a report from Macquarie Equities Research that stands as the latest estimate of the size of the free shipping program.

Macquarie Equities Research, part of Australia-based global financial services firm Macquarie Group, says in its Monday report that Amazon confirmed the 20 million paid membership figure. Amazon declines to specifically confirm the 20 million figure to Internet Retailer, but says Prime "has tens of millions of members around the world."

(Internet Retailer is running an anonymous survey about fulfillment and delivery trends that will be turned into a story for the upcoming issue of Internet Retailer magazine. Participants can win a copy of the Internet Retailer Top 500. Click here to take part.)

Previous estimates about the shipping program have put the number of members in the more than 8-year-old Prime at up to 15 million. The new membership estimate from Macquarie notes that a household can pay a single $79 annual fee and still be counted as one Prime membership even though multiple consumers in that household might be using the same Prime account to receive two-day shipping on eligible products. That could make the number of consumers who use Prime—and thus are more likely to start their shopping trips on Amazon.com—much higher than 20 million.  

Amazon has typically guarded its Prime membership figures, though it did report on the day after Christmas more than 1 million consumers “around the world” joined Prime in the third week of December.

The Macquarie report does not give estimates about the value to Amazon of Prime members. A 2013 report from financial data firm Morningstar Inc. and Consumer Intelligence Research Partners LLC estimated that the average Prime member spent $1,200 annually (that includes the $79 membership fee) compared with $600 for the average non-Prime Amazon customer.

According to another report, this one from Robert W. Baird & Co., Amazon. has made at least 19 million items available through its Prime shipping program. The e-retailer also offers Prime members streamed access to more than 25,000 TV and film titles.

“Growing Prime users remains a key focus for Amazon,” the Macquarie report says.

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