This year, Amazon turns 25. For most of us, it’s hard to imagine life without Amazon, but it wasn’t always the company we know today. In this article, we’ll take a quick look back at where Amazon started and how they’ve managed to create one of the biggest online shopping holidays of the year. 

Amazon has been a powerhouse when it comes to eCommerce sales for a long time now. Since 2004, their revenue numbers have only grown year-over-year and don’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon. Image courtesy of feedbackexpress

Where it All Started

When Amazon first started back in 1995, its main focus was on online bookselling. Within months the company began to grow and sell products across the U.S. and into many different countries. The plan was to get big fast, and looking back today, that motto may be what drove the company to become the massive eCommerce site it is today. 

Through the years, Amazon continued to increase sales and gain traction with consumers across various industries -- quickly expanding beyond the traditional bookselling model. With millions in revenue year after year, the company continued to grow into the company we know today. 

Then came one of it’s biggest and most successful events to date: Amazon Prime Day. 

Amazon Creates a New Shopping Holiday

In 2005, Amazon introduced Prime Day. Little did retailers know that Prime Day would become one of the top online shopping holidays to complete with -- especially with it’s somewhat rocky start. 

What started as a 24-hour shopping event with 34.4 million items purchases has grown into a 48-hour long event selling more than 175 million products. Let’s take a quick look back at some of the Prime Days of the past and how companies are 

The Early Years of Prime Day: It Wasn’t Always Rainbows and Butterflies

When Amazon turned 20, in 2005, Prime members all over the world gathered online for the first ever 24-hour shopping event and purchased 34.4 million items in celebration. Featuring sales akin to those found on Black Friday, Amazon enticed many people to subscribe to its Prime service for these exclusive deals.

In the first year, Prime Day still brought in a large number of additional sales for Amazon. More than twice the average sales they would have seen on that same day. 

In these early years, feedback from the event was mixed. Amazon’s Marketplace sellers came away pleased, with some achieving nearly 300% growth in sales for that day and some completely selling out of their inventory. 

Many consumers were pleased with their deals and steals, while others came away in frustration over limited inventory and long waitlists . #PrimeDayFail began popping up, with many tweets poking fun at the quirky sale items such as chef hats and packs of gum.

During the first Prime Day, many found the deals were on random and underwhelming products like crayons and shampoo. In the years to come, Amazon we able to provide customers with more of the products they actually wanted. 

But despite the hiccups during Prime Day’s first year, the event continued to gain traction every year. So much so that competitors took note and began to try and compete for sales with their own promotions and discounts.  

The Competition Gets OnBoard

Other large retailers including Best Buy, Forever 21, Groupon, and Petco took the opportunity to hold sales as well, capitalizing on the discounts and urgency associated with “Black Friday.” Further, some retailers took a direct approach to combat  Prime Day with email subject lines such as "WAY better than Prime Day" from CARBON38.

It didn’t take long for the competition to get onboard. Promoting their own sales to customers to try and take part in this new online shopping day. 

Today’s Prime Day: Shoppers Mark Their Calendars Weeks in Advance

Prime Day has become a much-anticipated event. People now mark their calendars and set themselves reminders to check the deals on products from clothing to high priced electronics. Let’s take a quick look at some of the ways Amazon has improved the event and how that has helped it become such a successful event. 

They Improved the Available Deals

Throughout the years, they have added new products and deal options. A few of the different types of deals they have run during their Prime Day events include: 

  • Spotlight deals:the best deals of the day featuring deep discounts that last until the stock runs out
  • Lightning deals: sales that are  featured for a limited amount of time, indicated by a timer, and have a status bar of how many items have been claimed
  • Savings and sales: these run all day and discounts are  applied on the checkout screen

Electronics became a big ticket item on Prime Day with deep discounts. It’s the best time of the year to purchase Amazon devices. In 2019, some of the best deals on the site were related to their Echos and Fire TV products. In the past, Amazon has encouraged the purchase of Alexa products through discounts such as $10 off their first purchase of $20 or more. 
More than 100 million devices with Alexa have now been sold. So, if you’re looking to get your own Alexa device and see what everyone is raving about, Prime Day is the best time of year to make that purchase. 

New deals also appear throughout the day, many as frequently as every five minutes. 

Another big change that helped create a better customer experience was the integration of the Amazon app for Prime Day. Prime members can  track the changing deals on Amazon’s shopping app. 

The app is available on the App Store and Google Play and shoppers can choose which deals they want to "watch" to get notified when it goes live so you can get the deals you’re on the hunt for.  The app and its notifications are a prime example (get it?) of how mobile is increasingly becoming a crucial and undeniable part of a customer's shopping experience.

The improvements that Amazon has made to Prime Day have had a huge effect on sales. Nearly doubling sales each year, they are continuing to bring customers back at an astonishing rate. Image courtesy of Statista

An Increase in Inventory and Product Offering

In response to the initial feedback, Amazon has deepened inventory and widened variety of products that shoppers could find  deals on.

The Competition Get Tougher

The competition is determined to not let Prime Day take over this new online shopping holiday. Some retailers are starting their sales earlier than Amazon and extending them longer to compete with Prime Day. 

Target launched their own two-day shopping event that ran at the same time as Prime Day, making them a big competitor to Amazon. Image courtesy of Weekly Ads.

Companies compete for the most sales continues year after year. In 2019, retailers such as Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and more ramped up their promotions and marketing to reach more customers than ever before. Many taking cues from Amazon by offering similar sales on popular Apple and Google electronic products.

Here are a few different ways companies have tried to lure customers away from Amazon in the last few years: 

  • Walmart offers free shipping with no membership requirements and increases “rollbacks” on technology and electronics to compete with Amazon’s deals
  • Target offers Target Deal Days that run during the same time as Prime Day and provides similar deals to those found on Amazon
  • Best Buy promotes discounted offers and takes a stab at Prime Day with another no membership needed promotion
  • eBay event took it as far as promoting their Crash Sale, poking fun at some of Amazon’s Prime Day struggles, and provided customers with a three-week-long shopping event. 
Best Buy has been a competitor to Amazon since the early days. Promoting their discounts and sales on electronic items without the need to purchase a membership -- making a direct hit at Amazon Prime Memberships.

When Walmart has taken the chance to promote their lower prices, rollbacks, and free shipping options to anyone who makes a purchase. Another competitor calling out Amazon for only allowing Prime Members to participate in Prime Day.

The Future Of Prime Day: Will Amazon Continue to Hold the Throne? 

As competitors continue to increase their promotions and sales, it will be interesting to see how the future of Prime Day pays out. Will the competition find a way to out-sell Amazon? Or will the powerhouse continue to crush sales and delight customers with deep discounts on the products they love and need? 

Only the future will tell -- but as of right now, it still seems that Amazon comes out as the clear winner.

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