Retail

Ready, Set, Go: Here Comes 2019 Amazon Prime Day(s)

Here Comes 2019 Amazon Prime Day(s)

Only Amazon could alter the meaning of long-established units of time.

We at PYMNTS occasionally employ benign exaggeration for journalistic purposes, but we are not too far off the mark. If anything says anything about the importance of Prime Day in the world of eCommerce, it’s that the annual event is apparently too big for a single 24-hour period – it now stretches two days.

This year’s Prime “Day” starts on Monday (July 15) and concludes Tuesday (July 16). The sales figures and other data that come from this event will provide more insight into the state of eCommerce and consumer behavior, as both the holiday season and a new decade loom. And Prime Day is hardly only about Amazon – rivals have their own competing programs, and their successes (or failures) will speak to how well they measure up against Amazon as 2019 heads toward its conclusion.

Prime Day Origins

Before we get to all those meaty details, let’s run through a little history. If anything, you can recite the origins of Prime Day to your descendants, who may one day schedule their vacations around the future Amazon’s Prime Day month-long spectacular. Sure, that’s more exaggeration, but Amazon this year actually put on a Taylor Swift concert to promote the 2019 shopping push.

As you likely know, Amazon launched Prime Day in 2015 – then, only a single day, which seems so quaint now – to mark the company’s 20th year in business.

According to one chronicle of Prime Day, milestones for the event – “a summertime counterpoint to Black Friday” – included 2016, when “Amazon supplements its ‘everything is on sale’ approach (mocked by critics as its ‘garage sale’ approach) with healthy price drops on its own devices (Echo, Fire TV, Fire Tablets, etc.).”

The next year, “Amazon begins offering a preview feature in its app so that shoppers can see deals 24 hours before they go live.” And in 2018, Amazon begins to really play around with the constraints of space and time when it “announces that Prime Day 2018 will run for 36 hours, from July 16 at 3 p.m. EST through July 17. It’s a bit later than in past years (likely to avoid competition with the World Cup).”

Prime Day, of course, rests on the shoulders of the Amazon Prime membership program. That launched in 2005 – nearly 15 years ago, believe it or not – and has since grown into a full and lucrative ecosystem that includes a robust streaming offering, and which helps to drive Amazon’s ongoing logistical growth.

If you desire to take another brief detour down memory lane, consider this: When Prime launched in February of that year, the iPhone was still two years away. The dominant – and pretty much the only – name in the smartphone market was BlackBerry, and it was seen as mostly for uptight professionals who could only be truly happy when reading their work emails. The App Store and Android Market (Google Play’s previous iteration) were both three years away, and Siri was seven years away. Alexa made its first appearance almost a full decade after Amazon introduced the world to Prime, in November 2014 (nine years and nine months, for the sticklers at home).

A Future Look

But enough about the ancient past. Prime Day is always about giving consumers a feel of the future – new products, new trends, new whatever.

This year, according to a Salesforce analysis, mobile will show even more power this Prime Day. “In Q1 2019, we saw the mobile tipping point for order share officially arrive: Mobile is now responsible for more eCommerce orders than desktop computers,” according to Salesforce. “In 2019, we expect to see the most mobile-first Prime Day ever, with 49 percent of orders and 66 percent of visits coming from mobile phones. Contrast that with 44 percent and 61 percent last year. This mobile-first march mirrors the 2018 holiday shopping season, when mobile shopping eclipsed desktop for the first time.”

Certain retail goods also will get some fresh attention during this year’s Prime Day, that analysis predicted. “Shoppers have been slower to buy luxury and home goods products online, compared to items like apparel and footwear,” Salesforce said. “It makes sense: In the early 2010s, buying a designer handbag or sofa for thousands of dollars online wasn’t a common (or comfortable) practice. But today, the luxury and home industries lead eCommerce growth, as online shopping – including the ubiquitous Amazon – has readied consumers to press the digital buy button on items in every category and price point.”

But Amazon can’t hog all the attention during Prime Day. Other retailers love to crash the annual party.

For example, while Target celebrates Prime Day, it does not call it Prime Day (for obvious reasons). Instead, it has Deal Days, which just happen to run on the exact same two days as Prime Day. The so-called “biggest sale of the summer” is an extension of last year’s non-Prime Day celebration, the one-day sale that fell on Prime Day. Last year, the retail chain saw its highest single day of traffic and sales of 2018 on Target.com, as the company offered day-long deals to compete with Prime Day.

For 2019, Target is additionally not only promoting what customers can get this year on Deal Days, but also all the choices that lie before them when it comes to receiving it. There are the standard in-store and order online/mobile options up for grabs, as one would expect. But this year, Target is also spending some time reminding consumers that they can order from Target.com and have their goods picked up and delivered to their home within hours by Shipt. The shop is also promoting its curbside pickup product Drive Up, and two-day free shipping for REDcard holders or anyone who spends more than $35.

And who can forget Walmart? That retail chain is taking Amazon’s tweaking of time and going even further, making its own competing event four days long.

Walmart’s sale will kick off on July 14 and will run clean through July 17. Last week, the retailer said it will release thousands of special buys and rollbacks on Walmart.com during its online sale. Those savings will focus on electronics, video games, home items, fashion and toys – a list that is similar to Target’s. Walmart, however, has also given a sneak peek at some of the specific items for which it is offering savings: the HP 15.6-inch HD Touch Display laptop computer for $429 ($150 below list) and the Dyson Multifloor Bagless Upright Vacuum for $154 (a savings of $125).

Check back with PYMNTS for full Prime Day coverage throughout this week. What happens during Prime Day tends to tell more than a little bit about the state of eCommerce, and from various angles.

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