100m reasons why Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is so pumped about Prime

19 Apr 2018

A Prime package delivered from Amazon. Image: Jeff Bukowski/Shutterstock

For the first time, Amazon has disclosed that its Prime e-commerce platform has more than 100m members.

One of Amazon’s longest-kept secrets is out: its Amazon Prime e-commerce service has exceeded 100m paid members globally.

The company has for many years simply disclosed that the service had tens of millions of users.

‘We continue to aspire to be Earth’s most customer-centric company’

However, in a letter to shareholders, Bezos has come clean.

“13 years post-launch, we have exceeded 100m paid Prime members globally,” Bezos wrote.

“In 2017, Amazon shipped more than 5bn items with Prime worldwide, and more new members joined Prime than in any previous year – both worldwide and in the US.”

An insight into the Bezos leadership style

100m reasons why Amazon’s Bezos is so pumped about Prime

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Image: Amazon

In the letter, Bezos gushed about how Amazon has just been named the No 1 business on LinkedIn’s Top Companies List for 2018, which ranks the most sought-after places to work for professionals in the US.

He revealed that globally, around 560,000 people go to work for Amazon every day. He said the key to understanding Amazon’s success is its emphasis on high standards.

“When I started Amazon, I had high standards on inventing, on customer care and (thankfully) on hiring. But I didn’t have high standards on operational process: how to keep fixed problems fixed, how to eliminate defects at the root, how to inspect processes and much more. I had to learn and develop high standards on all of that (my colleagues were my tutors).”

He also gave an insight into how Amazon’s management functions. For instance, PowerPoints are frowned upon and instead, executives write narratively structured six-page memos.

“Not surprisingly, the quality of these memos varies widely. Some have the clarity of angels singing. They are brilliant and thoughtful and set up the meeting for high-quality discussion. Sometimes, they come in at the other end of the spectrum.”

Learning how to craft these memos is an exercise in patience and wisdom. While it might be possible to write such a memo in a few hours, Amazonians learn that the best memos take time.

“The great memos are written and rewritten, shared with colleagues who are asked to improve the work, set aside for a couple of days, and then edited again with a fresh mind. They simply can’t be done in a day or two. The key point here is that you can improve results through the simple act of teaching scope; that a great memo probably should take a week or more.”

Priming the pump

Aside from the mythical and mysterious management culture at Amazon, the gravy in the letter to shareholders was found in the numbers.

Members in the US receive unlimited free two-day shipping on more than 100m items, and same-day delivery is now in more than 8,000 cities in towns.

In addition, Prime has expanded into Mexico, Singapore, the Netherlands and Luxembourg while Business Prime Shipping has been launched in the US and Germany.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is now a $20bn business in terms of revenue and is integral to the future of a multitude of businesses and services, including the internet of things, machine learning, AI and serverless computing.

Active users of AWS increased 250pc in the last year, spurred on by new features including Amazon SageMaker.

Bezos also revealed that there are now more than 30,000 skills (apps) for Alexa, Amazon’s voice interface. Customers have bought tens of millions of Echo devices, including Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick with Alexa.

In what has been the 20th anniversary of the company’s first shareholder letter, Bezos said that Amazon’s core values and approach remain unchanged.

“The credit for these milestones is deserved by many. Amazon is 560,000 employees. It’s also 2m 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.

“We continue to aspire to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, and we recognise this to be no small or easy challenge. We know there is much we can do better, and we find tremendous energy in the many challenges and opportunities that lie ahead,” Bezos said.

A Prime package delivered from Amazon. Image: Jeff Bukowski/Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years