By Ray Sylvester

It started as an experiment, a one-day sale in early July that’s grown into one of the most important ecommerce phenomena of the past five years. In this post, we’ll chart the growth of Amazon’s Prime Day from its beginnings in 2015 to the upcoming Prime Day 2019 and cover how brands can make sure they’re ready for Prime Day 2020 and beyond.

But first…

When Is Amazon Prime Day 2019?

Amazon’s latest edition of Prime Day actually falls across two days: Prime Day 2019 is Monday, July 15 and Tuesday, July 16.

Although Prime Day is just four years old, it’s become a centerpiece of Amazon’s Prime membership service, which the company launched back in 2005. For $79 per year, Amazon customers could lock in free two-day shipping on all eligible products.

celebratory banner reading "Amazon Prime Day July 15-16, 2019"

Prime has since become a bastion of Amazon’s business. More than 100 million members have joined the service as of April 2018—nearly a third of Americans—and 5 billion items have been shipped. Although Prime’s price tag has undergone a couple of increases, hitting $119 in 2019, Amazon has also expanded the suite of benefits available to Prime members. Today, subscribers also get access to Amazon’s extensive video library, a Kindle owners’ lending library, and discounts at Whole Foods stores, among other perks.

Summer Is for… Shopping?

The first Prime Day took place on Monday, July 6, 2015. The event had the feel of an “ecommerce garage sale,” with discounts on underwhelming items that left some shoppers unimpressed.

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Technical issues also cropped up as Amazon’s servers were overloaded with traffic.

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Prime Day Has Other Retailers Playing Catch-Up

Prime Day had an inauspicious start, but it laid the foundation of a shopping holiday that would change the game.

Despite the lukewarm reception from shoppers, other retailers took notice of the gauntlet Amazon had thrown with its inaugural Prime Day. In response, Wal-Mart announced its own rival sales day. They also threw some shade Amazon’s way: “We’ve heard some retailers are charging $100 to get access to a sale. But the idea of asking customers to pay extra in order to save money just doesn’t add up for us,” the company said in a blog post announcing its sale.

But the subtext was clear: Amazon has pulled off something big here, and we don’t want to be left behind.

2016 to 2018: Prime Day Keeps Growing and Growing…

Since 2015, Prime Day has built momentum each year and become a mainstay on the online shopping calendar.

Prime Day 2016 surpassed the sales tallies of the 2015 event, accounting for 74% of all of Amazon’s revenue on that day.

By 2017, multiple other retailers, including Macy’s, Kohl’s, Best Buy, Nordstrom, and Dell, had started holding their own competing versions of a Prime Day-type shopping holiday.

With the 2017 event another screaming financial success (with sales 60% higher than 2016), in 2018 Amazon decided to extend Prime Day to 36 hours. Despite some technical glitches, Prime Day 2018 continued the trend of year-over-year growth, becoming, as Amazon’s official blog pronounced, “the biggest global shopping event in Amazon history.”

Although Amazon doesn’t release official Prime Day sales data, analysts’ revenue estimates bear out this claim that Prime Day 2018 was Amazon’s biggest ever:

Prime Day Sales by Year

  • 2018: $4.2 billion (Source: Bloomberg)
  • 2017: $1 billion (Source: Bloomberg)
  • 2016: $525 million (Source: CNBC)
  • 2015: $415 million (Source: CNBC)

Will Prime Day 2019 continue the trend and become the new biggest shopping event in Amazon’s history? That remains to be seen. But the event plans to make new watermarks all the same. Although primarily a retail day, Prime Day 2019 will extend its reach into the cultural realm as well. This year’s Prime Day includes a concert featuring pop star Taylor Swift that will be streamed live around the world.

Making Something Out of Nothing: “Black Friday in July”

With Prime Day, Amazon has crafted a massive retail opportunity out of thin air. The company basically dumped sand in the ocean and created a bustling commercial hub where none previously existed. “Black Friday in July” is now a mainstay of the ecommerce calendar.

magician pulling rabbit out of a hat

With Prime Day, Amazon has created a massive shopping holiday where none previously existed.

Prime Day is also an important event for Amazon strategically.

Perhaps Amazon’s biggest benefit from Prime Day is not sales but the customer loyalty it creates. Prime Day has been incredibly successful at driving new Prime subscriptions and purchases of Amazon devices, which serve as gateway mechanisms to lock customers into Amazon’s ecosystem.

How Brands Can Get Ahead of the Curve for Prime Day 2020

If your brand is just starting to gear up for Prime Day 2019, well, you’ve missed the boat. But not all is lost. Although the dates of Prime Day 2020 have yet to be announced, there are steps brands can take to take full advantage—even if they whiffed on Prime Day 2019.

  • Have enough inventory available ahead of time. Amazon’s fulfillment centers experience a crunch in June and July as sellers load up for Prime Day.
  • Be prepared to spend on search. Ad views won’t come cheap on Prime Day, but they can pay off, since products on the first page of search results get two-thirds of all clicks.
  • Spruce up your product detail pages. All the ad clicks in the world won’t matter if your detail pages aren’t optimized to drive conversions. Make sure your product images, descriptions, and enhanced content do the job.
  • Set up self-serve discounts using Amazon coupons. Any vendor or seller can create a coupon for a dollar amount or percentage off to incentivize Prime Day sales.
  • Start promoting your deals well in advance of Prime Day. Use all your available properties (website, social media, etc.) and start promoting your deals early to build excitement and give customers time to plan their purchases.

Success on Amazon Requires Year-Round Focus

Even if you missed out on taking advantage of Amazon Prime Day 2019—and it still feels early to prepare for Prime Day 2020—remember that success on Amazon is never secured with one day of sales. Optimizing inventory, crafting effective product detail pages, and building a solid ad strategy on Amazon are year-round efforts with a year-round payoff. If you want to get your brand ready for Prime Day and every day on Amazon, get in touch with us.

Ray Sylvester is a writer, editor, and content strategist at Buy Box Experts.