Is Amazon Prime’s $119 cost really an $800 value?

Amazon is rolling out its Whole Foods discount to its Prime members today, part of the benefits that one analysis said makes the service worth almost $800 per year. 

That’s a big value, given that Prime membership currently costs $119 annually. Yet households want to feel they’re getting their money’s worth, especially since Amazon (AMZN) boosted the annual price from $99 earlier this month. 

Most consumers sign up for Prime because of its free two-day shipping, but it offers a host of other perks that aren’t as well known. The free shipping alone is worth $125 per year, according to JPMorgan Chase (JPM) analysts Doug Anmuth and Christopher Horvers, who dug into the Amazon Prime offerings in a May research report. 

Yet the full value of a Prime membership may not accrue to some consumers, especially those who live in rural areas. Even though Amazon is expanding its fulfillment centers to speed delivery to more corners of the U.S., some rural customers complain about unreliable two-day shipping, said Lindsay Sakraida, director of content marketing with DealNews

On top of that, expanded delivery services like Prime Now are available only in big cities. Forget it if you’re in, say, Lincoln, Nebraska. 

“Deciding whether Amazon Prime is worth the cost can depend greatly on where you’re located in the country,” Sakraida said. “For urban dwellers, Prime shipping and perks tend to be much sweeter.”

On Wednesday, Amazon said it would expand its Prime discount to all its Whole Foods Market 365 Stores, adding 121 more Whole Foods locations in 12 states. Prime members receive 10 percent off sale items and discounts on other products. But that discount is useful only if you happen to live near a Whole Foods location. 

While the Prime service was easier to justify when it was just $99 a year, even at the higher price it might be considered a good deal to some consumers who want convenience, Sakraida said. 

Here are the annual values of Prime’s individual perks that add up to $784 per year all together, according to JPMorgan. 

Unlimited two-day free shipping: $125

Amazon last year doubled to 100 million its selection of items available for free shipping and expanded its geographic reach of same- and one-day service to 8,000 U.S. cities and towns, JPMorgan’s Anmuth wrote. 

“We believe there are no comparable unlimited free shipping offerings available at scale, with Amazon’s large and growing infrastructure investments serving as a significant barrier to entry,” Anmuth wrote. 

Prime Now delivery: $180 

Prime Now is available in more than 30 large U.S. cities such as New York and Los Angeles, but the millions of Amazon customers who live outside those big metropolises are out of luck. The delivery service offers unlimited, free two-hour delivery on thousands of items, and Amazon is adding Whole Foods delivery to the product. Anmuth wrote that he believes Amazon will add more cities over time. 

Prime Video: $120

Streaming addicts are probably familiar with Prime Video, a rival to Netflix (NFLX) and Hulu. Amazon is likely to spend about $5 billion on content in 2018, up from $4.5 billion last year, according to JPMorgan. The service provides unlimited streaming of movies and TV series from major networks and studios, as well as Prime originals such as “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” 

Because Netflix has more offerings, JPMorgan values the video portion of Prime at $9.99 a month, or $1 less than Netflix’s standard plan. 

Prime Music: $60 

Prime Music is worth about $4.99 a month, or $60 a year, which is on par with Pandora Plus, JPMorgan said. It doesn’t have as extensive a library as rivals such as Apple Music or Spotify Premium, which charge about $10 per month. 

Prime Music offers ad-free streaming for about 2 million songs, although Amazon’s Music Unlimited service — which costs $7.99 a month for Prime members — has a much larger library of tens of millions of songs, JPMorgan said. 

Prime Photos: $24 

Prime Photos provides free unlimited photo storage, valued at about $1.99 per month, according to JPMorgan. A comparable service is Google Photos, which charges $1.99 per month to store photos and videos, although the quality is compressed, JPMorgan said. 

Kindle Owners’ Lending Library: $108 

The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library along with a group of other book-related services, such as Amazon First Reads, are worth about $8.99 per month, JPMorgan said. The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library allows Prime members to download one book each calendar month, although the members must own a Kindle or Fire device. 

Amazon also offers the Kindle First service — one free Kindle book each month to Prime members from a smaller selection of books picked by Amazon’s editors.

Audible Channels: $59 

Audible’s answer to podcasts can be found at Audible Channels, a service that provides ad-free, short-form audio programming. It also includes a rotating selection of about 50 audiobooks on Audible. One of the current selections is the nonfiction book “H Is for Hawk” by Helen MacDonald, for example. The value is about $4.95 a month, JPMorgan said. 

Twitch Prime: $108 

Twitch, the service that allows you to watch gamers play, is worth about $4.99 a month, according to JPMorgan. It provides Prime members with game content, exclusive emoticons and other extras.

Categories: Business

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *