Insights Into Amazon Prime Day 2018

July 16th was Amazon Prime Day, and as usual, it did not disappoint – if for nothing else than the headlines it generated. The original 24-hour – now lengthened to 36-hour – Prime Day lifts a slower summer shopping season with deals across the range of Amazon products.

We’ll dive a bit deeper into Amazon Prime Day to pick out the winners, losers, and interesting stories that this year’s retail bonanza generated.

History of Prime Day

Amazon launched Prime Day, their own made-up discounted shopping event, in 2015, offering deep discounts and once-a-year deals to its Prime members.

This was partly in response to the summer slowdown in sales for Amazon specifically, and for ecommerce and other retailers in general. According to MarketWatch, last year’s June and July sales were weaker than expected, and August 2017’s ecommerce sales experienced their biggest decline since 2014. Many factors contribute to this, including vacationers doing less shopping, and consumers spending money elsewhere such as experiences like concerts and trips.

Prime Day is now in its fourth year and has grown quickly. In fact, last year Amazon said that Prime Day led to “more new Prime members joining Prime than any single day in Amazon history.”

It also led to the largest single sales day in Amazon’s history, even beating out Black Friday of 2016. This record didn’t last long – 2017’s Cyber Monday broke a whole lot more records – but the fact that Amazon created such a successful shopping day like this, that has come to rival the biggest sale days throughout the year, is admirable.

Some retailers, like JCPenney and Macy’s, are offering their own versions of Prime Day with limited-time deals, while others such as Home Depot and Bed Bath are offering to match Amazon’s Prime Day prices.

Big Performers

This year, Prime Day was Amazon’s biggest 36 hours ever. Bigger than Cyber Monday, Black Friday, and Prime Day 2017, and it resulted in over 100m products being sold.

Here are some of the big winners:

  • Amazon Prime – Yes, Amazon’s Prime subscription service itself was the big winner this year. Amazon announced that more new members joined Prime on July 16 this year than on any other day in the history of the company. So confident is Jeff Bezos in the Prime service and subscriber base, that Amazon has hiked the pricing of Prime by 20%, to just under $120, with Amazon’s finance chief saying renewals are “looking really, really good.”
  • Shoppers – Savings on Prime Day have been found to be significantly better than those on Black Friday. This year there was an added bonus: with Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, these customers got to benefit from the sales too.
  • Category Winners – There were some outstanding categories this year. Unsurprisingly, this was led by strong showings from Echo Show, Echo Spot, and Kindles. The Fire TV stick was an outright winner in 2018.
  • Outstanding Performers – Once again the Instant Pot was a huge winner this year, along with strong showings from the likes of Sony with their PlayStation gaming console (the winner in Germany, France, and Australia) buoyed by sales of its FIFA 18 game and the interest in soccer because of the recent 2018 FIFA World Cup. Another winner was the 23andme DNA testing kit, showing that shoppers have an interest in more than just games and consoles.
  • Unexpected Winners – One of the unexpected winners of this year’s Prime Day was not an Amazon seller at all. Cnet, the tech news website, out-Amazoned Amazon by receiving organic traffic through optimized content, and then directing it back to Amazon through affiliate links. In fact, cnet.com received a higher proportion of “prime day” keywords than amazon.com with just over 30% to Amazon’s 23.5%.

Some Disappointments

In terms of disappointments, the surge of Instant Pot has left one-time high-flyers Crock-Pot from Newell Brands in the dust.

The big news this year is, of course, Amazon’s technical difficulties in handling the sudden surge in traffic. Amazon even had to set up a “fall-back” page filled with pictures of dogs, while they cut international traffic and installed temporary servers handle the higher numbers.

This incident has been seized upon by Amazon competitors such as Google, where Cloud CEO Diane Greene made a veiled reference to the difficulty at a recent conference.

Conclusions From Prime Day 2018

There are a few key conclusions to draw from Prime Day 2018:

Amazon is stronger than ever. Amazon is currently the only e-tailer (or retailer, for that matter) who can single-handedly generate the interest and sales that Prime Day does with such a branded 1-day event, at least in the US and Europe.

Amazon is looking over their shoulder. The likes of Target, Walmart, and others are carefully keeping tabs and taking strategic decisions to close the gap with Amazon, especially looking at leveraging their brick-and-mortar advantages. The game is still wide open.

Data is everything, and being smart pays. As was shown by Cnet, being smart and leveraging the right tools is the only way that other players can hope to compete. Without insights and optimization, ecommerce players are going to struggle to keep their heads above the water.

Choosing the right partner to drive business decisions is critical. A partner like Market Beyond offers smart data to give real-time, actionable insights that inform everything from overall strategy to category and even product-level decisions. Tomorrow’s winners will be the ones leveraging the right partner today, to drive their business forward.