Home News Amazon Prime Day is a made-up holiday to trick people into shopping

Amazon Prime Day is a made-up holiday to trick people into shopping


You probably wouldn’t think the Instant Pot would be at the top of your summer shopping list. Sultry weather doesn’t exactly get people in the mood for a hearty stew. But Amazon has managed to make it a hot item for consumers to buy every year in mid-July, thanks to Prime Day, which is now a 48-hour extravaganza of deals.

As the saying goes, if you build it, they will come, which in Amazon’s case means poof! A shopping holiday was invented out of thin air.

Amazon Prime Day was first introduced in 2015, originally to celebrate Amazon’s 20th birthday (I guess the company could have a birthday). It’s a way of rewarding Prime membership since 2005 and bringing consumers into its ecosystem of products and services. It’s also a way to increase sales when the company is usually in the offseason. According to Amazon, consumers in nine countries bought more than 34 million items on the first Prime Day, and then just 24 hours later. It surpassed the number of items sold on Black Friday the previous year, the e-commerce giant’s biggest Black Friday at the time.

Today, Amazon Prime Day is one of the biggest shopping events of the year. In 2021, people bought more than 250 million items during this period. This year’s numbers are not out yet, and it’s unclear how much inflation and changing consumer habits have had an impact, but it’s still a big deal. Historically, Amazon said “jump” as in “store”. Consumers in the U.S. and around the world ask, “How high is it?”

“People all over the world, especially Americans, like to sell; they like to trade,” said Sucharita Kodali, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester. “If they’re told they’re going to find a great deal, they’re going to check it out.”

Even if it means finding a landscaping crock during one of the hottest months of the year. In 2015, Prime Day sold 24,000 Instant Pots. By 2018, that number was 300,000. In 2021, the Instant Pot remains one of the best-selling products on Prime Day.

I know people make stuff that isn’t instant pot soup, but still.

Christmas in July, but for yourself

The idea of ​​shopping for yourself for the holidays isn’t unique to or invented by Amazon. Prime Day was inspired by Alibaba’s Singles Day in China on November 11th. Holidays of all kinds, real and invented by retailers, are turned into purchases. For some reason, we collectively decided that Presidents Day was the time for mattress sales. Even Juneteenth has become embarrassingly commercialized.

Greg Greeley spent 18 years at Amazon, including running Prime and overseeing the early days of Prime Days. He explained to me that, for example, while Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday are always about giving gifts to others, Prime Day has a distinct appeal. “I like to describe it as our gift to Prime members so they can give themselves something.”

Prime Day takes up space that consumers don’t actually need to fill but may just want to fill. It’s in between major shopping moments like the holidays and back-to-school season. It’s also a moment when it feels more like buying just to buy than for a specific purpose — maybe, a little selfish about that.

“Culture has been creating business holidays for a long time,” said Jason Goldberg, chief commercial strategy officer at advertising agency Publicis. “People are very interested in price, they are very keen to find the treasure of a deal, and when smart marketers create it well The notion that there are some particular reasons for trading triggers some of the cognitive biases we have. “

As Hilary George-Parkin explained for The Goods in 2019, sales and deals make consumers feel like they’re getting something special, even if they’re not getting something special, like they’re getting free money. People may be forced out of FOMO and believe they will lose something if they don’t buy right away before the stock runs out or the deal closes.

“These deals are structured so that the product in the deal doesn’t last forever,” said Kelly Goldsmith, a behavioral scientist at Vanderbilt. “Scarcity marketing strategies have long been a mainstay of marketers’ toolkits.”

Some consumers head into Prime Day with a clear idea of ​​what they want and look for discounts on items they’re already planning to buy; if not on that particular day, then eventually. However, other people just buy stuff because they see it and it’s there.

Prime Day is neat for Amazon, middling for many other parties

Whatever deals consumers feel they’re getting rid of Prime Day, the real winner may be Amazon. While Prime Day isn’t as important as it once was, as Sebastian Herrera pointed out in The Wall Street Journal, it’s still a very positive net profit for the company. It helped boost third-quarter sales and brought in billions of dollars in revenue. It’s also a way to get people into Prime memberships (though much less now than at first), allowing consumers to familiarize themselves with and buy Amazon’s products and services.

“In the past, it was mostly a deal on stuff that Amazon sold, and Amazon could curate it and say, ‘Hey, we have a really good deal on Alexa,'” Goldberg said. Now, he said, that has diminished, and consumers have almost too much to sort through when buying, whether it’s products from Amazon or not. “Today, there are 10 million lightning transactions on Prime, and the vast majority of them are for crap that no one wants.”

Prime Day can be a mixed bag for third-party sellers on the platform, Goldberg said. They usually don’t pay much attention to the exact date, which makes the whole thing logistically challenging, and sellers sometimes sell at such deep discounts that it hurts their bottom line. “The reason you sell at a loss on Prime Day is to meet a new customer who may buy more from you over time,” he said. Increasingly, this isn’t possible on Amazon because people usually just buy from the first listing that comes up, rather than returning to a specific seller. “Sellers are learning more and more that you can’t get customers on Amazon; you rent customers on Amazon.”

Prime Day 2021 is the biggest day ever for third-party sellers, and customers can buy more products from those sellers this year than last year, an Amazon spokesperson said. The spokesperson declined to say how many notifications Prime Day sellers received, or to answer speculation that the company might add another Prime Day at a different time this year.

While third-party sellers may not always have a high profile, Amazon is watching buyers’ every move. “Every single click you make on Amazon is probably something someone, somewhere, is working on,” Goldsmith said.

Prime Day encourages consumers to buy a bunch of stuff in a few days, a stretch for Amazon’s warehouses and, ultimately, its workers for delivery. There’s a reason Amazon is worried that it will run out of potential employees at some point, even though Amazon says it has enough staff for the season.

Prime Day might not even be ideal for shoppers — you’re not saving money if you load up a bunch of stuff you don’t actually want.

Maybe try to buy a little less next year

Prime Day 2022 is July 12-13, so if you’ve got a good deal on something you’ve always wanted, good for you! If you got a good deal on something you didn’t actually want, and you might have some regrets right now, hey, that happened to all of us. There is always a return. Maybe you’ll really like that plant stand that you now have to buy a bunch of plants, and the fedora you’re starting to suspect you’ll be too embarrassed to actually wear in public.

“With so much garbage in our lives, do we really need more?” Kodali said. “A lot of this stuff has gone to the point of waste; it ends up in landfills, adding to our global warming problem.”

As consumers, we are trained to buy cheap without considering the wider impact. Amazon and Prime Day are part of the problem. We don’t actually need a new holiday to buy things.

Still, the whole situation is hard to resist. It’s not just Amazon that’s bringing Prime Day to consumers — it’s the media and the internet as a whole. Get clicks for news stories about the best Prime deals of the day. I got an email from my bank reminding me that Prime Day is coming up. Other retailers, like Target and Walmart, are also participating in these specials. Collusion on many fronts, including consumers themselves.

I didn’t buy anything for Prime Day this year. It’s not because I’m an ethical consumer or anything, it’s mostly because I’m lazy and sifting through a bunch of stuff on Amazon seems exhausting.

I’ve started thinking about using the Instant Pot, and I’ve been told that it’s a joy to own and use, even during the summer months. I’m not even sure I have room for one, but I kind of want it right now. I think that’s the point.

“Nobody needs an Instant Pot, and you can’t make the things you need to survive without an Instant Pot, so it’s not a necessity. But it’s an aspirational project,” Goldberg said. “When a $100 Instant Pot becomes $60, it opens the floodgates.”

Maybe this is how the Instant Pot will be in my kitchen for Prime Day 2023.

We live in a world that is constantly trying to deceive us and deceive us, and we are always surrounded by scams big and small. Feeling unable to navigate. Every two weeks, join Emily Stewart for a look at all the little ways our economic system controls and manipulates ordinary people.Welcome to big squeeze.

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Have an idea for a future column?e-mail emily.stewart@vox.com.

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