Prime Day 2018: What Did Marketers Learn? What Does it Mean?

Prime Day 2018 is officially in the books, and based on the continued popularity this new shopping event is here to stay. Marketers have been employing several strategies to compete on Prime Day with good reason – the shopping event has impacted back-to-school and back-to-college shopping, as well as having an influence on early holiday […]

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Prime Day 2018 Rakuten Marketing

Prime Day 2018 is officially in the books, and based on the continued popularity this new shopping event is here to stay. Marketers have been employing several strategies to compete on Prime Day with good reason – the shopping event has impacted back-to-school and back-to-college shopping, as well as having an influence on early holiday shopping.

Prime Day 2018 gave marketers several lessons they need to learn from to become more competitive during this “Black Friday in July” shopping period. In this report, we take a look at the results of Prime Day 2018, some of the strategies and events that took place during the 36-hour shopping event, and finally what some key takeaways were.

Prime Day 2018 Results

Prime Day 2018 Consumer BehaviorPrime Day 2018 has quickly become one of the most important shopping holidays of the year, with 60% of internet users aware of the July shopping event. (Comparatively, 88% are aware of Black Friday.) Prime Day this year saw over $3 billion dollars in sales.

There were ups and downs on Prime Day 2018, with site issues specifically impacting Amazon’s performance (and helped other brands who took advantage of this outage, more on that soon). Overall, there were some notable insights from Prime Day 2018. According to eMarketer:

  • Mobile: Due to the deal nature of Prime Day (with new deals appearing throughout the 36-hour event), many shoppers relied more on their mobile devices to shop, rather than desktops. According to InfoScout (cited by eMarketer), 67% of shoppers utilized a mobile device, compared to just 41% using a desktop. This number varied based on different data outlets, but the unanimous trend was that mobile was more heavily relied on than desktop.
  • Technical Issues: Amazon experienced technical issues during Prime Day that impacted how shoppers decided to shop with Amazon. 15.9% of shoppers said they gave up on Prime Day shopping with Amazon without buying anything, and 11.3% said they purchased less than planned.
  • Motivation: Only about half of shoppers on Amazon that day (54%) were using Prime Day as the reason for shopping that day, and 44% of shoppers said that this was their first Prime Day event.

Rakuten Marketing Results

Brands big and small have recognized the impact that Prime Day has had on the summer season (influencing changes in back-to-school, holiday, and general shopping alike), and have sought to get their own deals out to customers and compete against Amazon.

Brands in the Rakuten Marketing affiliate network were active in competing against Amazon on Prime Day by offering a wide range of deals and discounts for customers. Notable network performance numbers for US advertisers and publishers in the Rakuten Marketing affiliate network include:

  • Sales: Rakuten Marketing clients who offered competing Prime Day deals saw a 42% increase in GMS performance compared to 2017’s Prime Day dates.
  • Clicks: Affiliate network marketers working with Rakuten Marketing increased their clicks by 46% YoY.
  • Orders: There was a 27% YoY increase in orders for Rakuten Marketing affiliate network clients.

Taking Advantage of Sudden Opportunities

Prime Day was a success for Amazon, but a bumpy kick off to the event hurt the internet retailer early on. The sales launched at 3 pm EST on July 16, but Amazon’s site crashed on both desktop and mobile apps as consumers rushed to try and seize the first wave of deals available. Business Insider reported that individual pages were still working, but the main Prime Day page was not. Even more problematic than the pages themselves was the shopping cart. Customers complained about problems adding items to the cart, and would clear out entirely for some customers who tried to modify it.

Brands began engaging with frustrated shoppers on social media by promoting their own sales or offering special deals. The ability to react to shopper needs is critical in the age of real-time, direct conversation with potential customers. Not only does it provide an immediate remedy for those who are affected, the strategy enables brands and retailers to build a strong relationship with a new customer quickly. From an Adweek article on how brands capitalized on this opportunity:

“It’s always smart for brands to take advantage of the outage as it at least puts them in the conversation,” said Ben Gaddis, president of T3, an innovation agency. “Because more brands prepared deals to combat Prime Day this year, they actually have offerings to compete.”

There are many lessons for brands to take away from this, but two key ones are:

  1. Be Prepared: While the downtime for Amazon led to many competitive opportunities, brands should also take this as a reminder: if it can happen to Amazon, it can happen to anyone. With the holidays fast approaching, digital retailers and brands should ensure that they don’t experience any downtime during events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday by testing their own servers and ensuring they can handle an influx of customers during the biggest shopping event of the year.
  2. Be Decisive: If a brand wants to offer a deal in real-time, they must be decisive about what they’re going to offer and get the message out ASAP. Every minute spent deliberating what deal should be offered is an opportunity lost.

Prime Day 2018 Competitive Strategies

Prime Day 2018Brands looked to compete with Amazon before, during, and after the 36-hour online sales event in a number of ways. Some of these methods were planned, while others were even more agile in order to take advantage of opportunities to provide positive customer experiences on Prime Day.

  • No-Barrier for Entry: Many big brands and retailers promoted their deals with the idea that there would be no cost or membership required to take advantage of the sales, undercutting Amazon’s membership requirement for Prime Day.
  • Wide Range for Shopping: Prime Day’s 36 hours of deals focused on a single stretch of offers. Many competitors started early or went later than Amazon during this period to either draw attention away from Amazon before consumers saw what Amazon had to offer, or keep them interested after Prime Day came to an end.
  • Types of Deals: Prime Day deals were largely built around flash sales with limited quantities (the deal would “go live” and there would be a limited amount of product before the deal was “sold out” and a waitlist was created) as well as price-reduction discounts. For many brands who sought to compete during this time, they offered a range of price-incentives including steeper discounts, more cashback, free shipping, and “buy x, get x” offers.

Prime Day 2018 Key Takeaways

Prime Day will continue to be an important shopping period for both Amazon customers and non-Amazon customers alike. However, Prime Day itself (landing in mid-July) won’t be the only opportunity that competing brands will have to win over consumers. Some of the key takeaways from Prime Day 2018 that marketers can take advantage of include:

  • Offer Better Inventory: One frustration that customers have vented since the launch of Prime Day is that the “better than Black Friday” sales event feels more like a garage sale. Brands can make a stronger push on discounting more sought-after products, or offer deals that can be utilized on products (directly or indirectly) that shoppers are more enticed by (such as offering a percent-off total order coupon or a cashback deal).
  • Deals Beyond Prime Day: Something new this year was that brands were experimenting with deals around Prime Day, but coming before or after the event itself. Shoppers are still looking for products to buy once the Prime Day dust settles (a few days or a week after) brands can stand out by promoting “Black Friday” deals and having a limited shopping event of their own. This will help brands reach customers who were dissatisfied with Prime Day offerings, while helping ensure they won’t have to share the “discount clout” with Amazon.
  • Brands Must Be Agile: Brands can utilize real-time consumer feedback on social platforms like Twitter to engage with shoppers directly. The benefit of this is that brands can offer these consumers deals they may not have otherwise known about but will take advantage of at the moment. The personal outreach can help win consumers and boost brand awareness during a shopping frenzy where customers are looking for the best deal available, didn’t find it on Amazon, and aren’t sure where else to look. This is also a good strategy to employ during Cyber Week.
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