Prime Early Access Sale – three surprising results

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Amazon’s holiday preview produced some unexpected results.

Now that the Amazon Prime Early Access Sale is over, it’s time to look back and see what the industry can take away from this event.

Initially announced in September 2022, the Prime Early Access Sale offered Prime members hundreds of thousands of deals. 2022 marks the first year that Amazon essentially hosted two full-blown versions of its members-only Prime Day promotion.

The retailer has not yet said if it will also provide any type of early holiday (pre-Thanksgiving) promotion open to all consumers. Chief Amazon rivals Walmart and Target also both ran October holiday sales events for all shoppers.

While analysts will be combing through results and releasing their Prime Early Access Sale findings for several weeks, a few facts about Amazon’s latest sales extravaganza are already crystallizing.

It wasn’t a holiday event
Amazon’s official tagline for the Prime Early Access Sale was “Two days of holiday deals.” But a look at customer behavioral data suggests that by and large, shoppers looked beyond the holidays when making their purchases.

According to analysis of the entire 48-hour sales event from Numerator, slightly less than three in 10 (29%) surveyed Prime Early Access shoppers said they bought holiday gifts. Numerator data also indicates the top two product categories consumers purchased were household essentials and health & beauty, neither of which is a traditional holiday gift segment.

Other Numerator data points suggesting that the sale was not a holiday-focused event include 15% of surveyed shoppers saying they purchased large ticket items they would only buy at discount, 23% acquired everyday goods they would be buying anyways, and 53% purchased items for themselves or their households. One in five (19%) bought non-holiday gift items.

Certainly, 29% of what Amazon said were tens of millions of Prime members participating in the sale doing some of their holiday shopping still equates to a lot of presents. But many consumers appear to have treated “two days of holiday deals” like 48 hours of discounts on whatever products they wanted to buy, for whatever purpose.

The ‘halo’ may have been tarnished
In a previous column, I urged other retailers to directly compete with Prime Early Access Sale, and I’ll stand by that advice. But the data available so far suggests that the “halo effect” Early Access Prime Day had on e-commerce may have been muted.

According to Numerator, six in 10 Prime Early Access shoppers only shopped at Amazon during the two-day sale period, with only 24% actually making a purchase at another retailer or website. Meanwhile, Criteo analysts said they did not observe an uptick in the number of products sold across other retailers.

However, Salesforce analysis indicated that while non-Amazon online sales during the Prime Day event were essentially flat year-over-year, online sales grew by 10% during the weekend prior to the event, when major competitors like Target and Walmart were getting an early start with competing online sales events.

October is not the new November
Many observers had predicted that the Prime Early Access Sale would mark the shift of the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season from November to October. So far, that does not appear to be the case.

Of Prime Early Access shoppers surveyed by Numerator who purchased gifts, 69% said they have completed less than half of their holiday shopping, and 95% said they will definitely or probably shop Amazon again in the next three months for holiday purchases.

There are a lot of holiday shopping dollars left to compete for, and it seems unlikely they will all (or even mostly) be spent by Halloween.

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