Why I Went to Amazon Prime and Why Prime Will Change Your Community

1. Why *I* Went with Prime

ImageI find myself putting things in my shopping cart, and not ordering until I hit the magic $25 mark that gets me free shipping. That’s a great plan to save money, and I love that amazon.com lets me do that. But it also means that a) when I need the item fast, I tend to shop – and shopping is the death of frugality and the immense killer of time. I hate that. b) I don’t have the use or enjoyment of the item when I want it, and in the case of items that save us time, make us more efficient, or improve our lives, that means a loss of time, money, and opportunities in the meantime. That book I need to improve a business opportunity for a colleague. That household item I need to get us closer to putting the thing on the market. That tool that will make business meetings more efficient. Amazon Prime means I don’t have to wait, worry about minimums, and the value is very high.

For $80/year, I get unlimited free shipping faster (2 days) than the already fast $25/minimum shipping, and without any minimums. I’ve decided it’s worth it. There’s some buyer’s remorse resistance built into dropping things into the cart and waiting, but I can still do that, if I want to – and often do, even when I hit the $25 mark, so I’m not worried. Amazon’s “save for later” option still lets me deposit things in my cart and think about them for a while, but now I can get the things I know I want without having to do that thinking immediately.

This is going to mean I buy a lot more stuff on amazon. We already do a lot of that, but shipping is the main reason we haven’t regularly bought staple items there like computer paper, clothing, curtains, or whatever else. This is going to save us a ton of shopping time, transportation time, and wasted life energy being in physical stores.

2. Why Prime Will Change Your Community

I’ve said repeatedly (e.g. on the Rules of Work blog) that the death knell for the current crop of brick and mortar big box stores is when there is ubiquitous fast, cheap shipping. In other words, when the price point for extremely fast shipping drops below the cost of transportation, and the speed of delivery outpaces the time to think about the items, plan a trip to the right store, and shop for them, the physical store as we know it is essentially dead. I’m not talking about cool, kitchy, organic mom and pop stores – those will come back because of this change. It’s the Borders, Barnes & Noble, Blockbuster type stores that will feel the squeeze. What I hadn’t realized when I said all that is that Amazon has already figured this out.

Not only does Prime span that gap, but it’s $3.25/item to get one day shipping, and they offer it at checkout for when you really need it tomorrow. No, they don’t have to offer same day delivery to start killing off the local big box blight (yes, there’s a positive ethical component to Prime, for those of us who support our local communities) – there will always be convenience stores for when you need that tube of caulk right now. But they’ll look different – the big boxers will gobble up the Seven-11, not the mom and pop boutique store, and they’ll offer more stuff at premium prices. Imagine big box convenience stores!

But you and I will spend less of our lives shopping (with the stragglers being areas in the middle part of the country, where store-going is the primary form of recreation and a kind of cultural disease). You look at Orange County, and there’s already a happy dirth of “stores” in the traditional sense – instead, you get beautiful beaches, pleasant jogging trails, and lovely places to dine and socialize outside – whole communities are homes, restaurants, coffee shops, and wine bars, with maybe a Trader Joes for fresh groceries. Where do they buy stuff? Amazon of course. And there are a lot of Prime members out there. New York City, too – Amazon isn’t putting the local falafel vendor our of business, but they are helping keep Walmart out.

This is all a cultural change, and Amazon is at the front of it – of what’s coming. I’m a dedicated Amazonian already, but Prime is really making me committed. I’m so happy about this. I’m going with Prime and never looking back. Thanks, Amazon!


Incidentally, as an internet marketing consultant, I want to say what element worked for me. It was the free trial offer for Amazon Prime. It must have been there all along, but finally noticing that it was a free trial is what made me look at the details and decide to switch. Once I read it, I didn’t actually need a trial – I knew – but I was glad the free trial got my attention and made me open up the terms and look. The only thing I would do better is offer that free trial at checkout time in a more prominent way – make it a real hi-ho attention getter, like it’s Christmas, and you just got rained on with tinsel and surprises. Still, great job Amazon – I really loved how this went.

And I’ll mention that the wish list feature is one of my favorites, too – I use it to keep track of things I might want to have when I can justify the expense – but not lose the research I’ve done in Amazon’s reviews for the versions I like, and I can monitor for alternative solutions that may fill the bill, without having the things constantly poking up in my cart. Great feature.


Update 12/18/11: I tried to go to a store and shop for a gift, and it was awful. I just can’t do it any more. I already despised shopping, but the parking, the walking around, the hunting, the checkout line – it’s all outrageous. Drag and drop means I can work more, watch more films, read more, whatever. Even when it costs a couple of dollars more for shipping, it’s worth it. But Prime makes it supremely worth it.

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