The Amazon Influence: Living Social Beta Tests Premium Membership 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 Living Social 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 Living Social. And to the Prime membership model. Today, we see it more clearly.

As he was checking out a Blue Nile Cyber Monday deal on Living Social, Washington Business Journal reporter Bill Flook uncovered a possible new direction: a premium Living Social membership model being branded as “Living Social 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 Living Social, the membership opportunity is clear: they 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 Living Social only needs to come up with the commission amount before the discount.

What’s interesting to us is that Living Social might be going in this direction, and that it’s points and Rewards program that it recently announced with Next Jump isn’t part of the equation. Maybe they are hedging their 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 Living Social and the deals space, but Amazon, and Angie’s List, too. We’ll see how much it catches on in 2012.