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America's new majority: More than half of U.S. households will be Prime members in 2019

Amazon Prime members a new U.S. majority
A new American majority: Amazon Prime members 01:09
  • Amazon Prime memberships will include more than half of American households this year.
  • But the retail giant wants more, so it's expanding its annual Prime Day to a 48-hour event this year to boost sales and sign up additional Prime subscribers. 
  • Despite the milestone, Prime subscriber growth is slowing for Amazon, down to 9% this year from 12% last year. 

More than half of U.S. households will have an Amazon Prime member this year, according to data released Wednesday from research firm eMarketer. That makes the service one of the few groups reaching a majority of Americans and underscores Amazon's importance as consumers shift their spending online.

But that's not enough for the Seattle, Washington-based retailer, which is expanding Prime Day into a full 48-hour event this year, running July 15 and 16. The annual shopping holiday exclusively for Prime subscribers dangles deals in a bid to boost sales over the summer — but also to convince more shoppers to sign up for Prime membership.

More on Amazon Prime Day:

The growing reach of Amazon Prime has transformed the service into one of the biggest commercial forces in the country, with third-party merchants eager to tap Amazon's huge customer base. Amazon, for its part, is seeking to win customers outside its traditional middle-class base by offering cut-rate Prime memberships to students and low-income Americans on food stamps or Medicaid.

"Prime membership is the fulcrum on which Amazon's commerce flywheel spins," Andrew Lipsman, principal analyst at eMarketer, said in a statement. "No event is more important to attracting and retaining subscribers than Prime Day."

The research firm projected that Prime Day 2019 could generate more than $5 billion in sales for Amazon, as it continues to drum up consumer expectations around the event. The retailer even streamed a Prime Day concert Taylor Swift headlined Wednesday to woo subscribers ahead of the holiday next week. 

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The shopping event is especially important for Amazon now as Prime subscriber growth slows. According to eMarketer, that growth rate will slow to single digits this year, down to 9% from 12% last year and 20% in 2017.

"By getting customers to financially and psychologically commit to Amazon, it drives purchase frequency, buying across more categories, and ultimately further entrenches them in the Amazon ecosystem — all right before the all-important back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons," Lipsman added.

Amazon Prime by the numbers:

51%: More than half of American households are expected to be Prime members this year, up from 47% last year, projects eMarketer. The number of households tuned into Prime will grow 8.6% this year to 65 million.

$5 billion: Total global sales Amazon is projected to pull in from Prime Day 2019. Total sales worldwide for the holiday last year generated about $4.2 billion, when it was a 36-hour event. 

$221 billion: Amazon's online sales total for 2019, an increase of nearly 18%. That means the internet company has cornered more than one-third of the U.S. e-commerce market. Total online retail sales in the U.S. are expected to jump to $587 billion this year.

$11.3 billion: Amazon's advertising business in the U.S. this year. That's a 53% increase a year earlier as it continues to gain market share from Facebook and Google. Amazon has nearly 9% of the U.S. digital ad market. More ad revenue — 40% — will come from mobile, versus 35% last year.

64.6 million: The number of Americans this year that will use an Amazon Fire TV device. Amazon has said it's reserving its biggest Prime Day deals for Alexa-enabled devices, and they're widely expected to be the top sellers July 15 and 16.

49.1 million: The number of Americans who will use the Amazon Echo smart speaker. But that figure is declining as more shoppers purchase competitor Google Home.

67%: The share of online "books, music and video" sales Amazon has cornered. The online giant started out as a bookstore. 

24%: The share of online food and beverage sales Amazon has captured. The retailer has invested heavily in food delivery services in the past year.

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