The Amazon Influence: LivingSocial Beta Tests Premium Members Program

Amazon’s a sleeper bet to really shake up local commerce. But what does that look like? For sure, we see the pieces being assembled…the focus on Amazon Stores, the $175 million LivingSocial investment, the Kindle Fire rollout, the expansion of Amazon Prime to include access to a range of content, the build-up of Amazon Transactions. But it isn’t totally clear — perhaps not to Amazon, either.

To us, we’re looking at local being organically integrated into general commerce, rather than ghettoized. But we keep returning to LivingSocial. And to the Prime membership model. Today, we see it more clearly.

As he was checking out a Blue Nile Cyber Monday deal on LivingSocial, Washington Business Journal reporter Bill Flook uncovered a possible new direction: a premium LivingSocial membership model being branded as “LivingSocial Plus Beta.”

For $20 a month, members would receive $25 in Deal Bucks and for the first time, a chance to break into some expired deals (“priority access to closed deals”).

For LivingSocial, the membership opportunity is clear: It can guarantee at least one purchase a month from well-heeled consumers (Blue Nile is a diamond site). Deal-a-day participants currently purchase about four deals a year. Moreover, while they are giving away $5 of credits a month, the actual cost is much less since LivingSocial only needs to come up with the commission amount before the discount.

What’s interesting to us is that LivingSocial might be going in this direction, and that its points and rewards program that it recently announced with Next Jump isn’t part of the equation. Maybe it’s hedging its bets.

Will premium memberships be the new “first class” for consumers, and especially local consumers? If that’s the case, it has great ramifications for sites not only like LivingSocial and the deals space, but Amazon, and Angie’s List, too. We’ll see how much it catches on in 2012.

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