Riding the Prime Day Wave — How Other Retailers Push for eCommerce Growth on Amazon’s Big Day

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Amazon’s Prime Day has been a major phenomenon in eCommerce sales since it launched in 2015. The major discounts in mid-July mark the busiest shopping days for the retailer outside of the holiday shopping season at the end of the year. 

Amazon sells more than 10 million products on Prime Day, more than double what they see in the rest of June. But that Prime Day boost provides online retail growth momentum beyond Amazon. Many other retailers see an increase in product views and purchases when Amazon runs its discounts. This “splash effect” is pretty general—more people shop online during Prime Day and some of that shopping ends up happening on other retailers as they search around for different prices of products to suit their needs. 

Many sellers will attempt to take advantage of the coming online shopping enthusiasm with deals of their own. Target is planning a “deal days” sale on “rarely discounted items.” eBay is running a trolling “crash sale” on July 15th in a dual attempt to siphon buyers and mock Amazon’s server outages during last Prime Day. And Walmart has announced deals on Google smart home products that will extend through Prime Day.

But historically, not all retailers have been winners on Prime Day. And some have done better than others at leveraging the opportunity for eCommerce sales. We took a look at consumer behavior on 25 major eCommerce sites in the weeks leading up to Prime Day in 2017 and 2018 to see which show the most success during the Prime Day surge.

Prime Day Winners and Losers (Beyond Amazon)

Overall, Prime Day is the most beneficial to Amazon. Amazon saw more than 7.5 million conversions in 2018 on Prime Day, a 106% increase over their average in the six weeks leading to the event. 24 other eCommerce websites, drove a total of 2.1 million conversions on Prime Day in 2018, a 27% boost over their June and July average leading up to the event.

A note about terminology here: in the data comparing Amazon to other domains I’ll use the word “conversions” to describe when people complete a checkout on a top eCommerce website. That’s different than the number of products I referred to earlier when I wrote that Amazon sells 10 million products. Since a user can buy multiple products in any given conversion, we’re going to use conversions here. This helps compare activity on different eCommerce sites more accurately since some domains will generally have more products purchased in any given shopping session.

Both Amazon and the other 24 top eCommerce sites (those non-Amazon conversions in the chart above) saw more transactions in 2018 than in 2017. We should expect the numbers to continue to grow in 2019. But Amazon should still see a much bigger boost than anyone else. That should be no surprise. After all, Amazon is by far the biggest eCommerce site in the U.S., and Prime Day is their holiday. Who else could see that kind of boost?

Target. That’s who.

Out of all those eCommerce sites, Target.com saw an even higher boost from Prime Day over its summer averages than Amazon—a 157% increase in conversions. Before you get too excited, recall that Amazon’s boost is almost 4 million conversions in total—nearly double the total conversions on Prime Day from the next 24 retailers, combined. Target went from about 61,000 average daily conversions to about 160,000 daily conversions. Amazon gets 47 times Target’s total conversions on Prime Day, so I doubt they’re sweating Target’s success.

Lowes.com also saw twice as many conversions than average, and bhphotovideo.com, Macys.com, and newegg.com all made major gains. Ikea.com and Nike.com saw Prime Day detract from their overall performance, with conversion totals falling 15% and 8% below the average for the summer. Lowes’s rival homedepot.com only showed a moderate boost, around 5%. And Jet.com, overstock.com, and samsclub.com were basically unchanged for Prime Day.

The Tuesday Factor

“But wait,” you might say, “aren’t you comparing the wrong numbers? What if those retailers are just higher on the day of the week that Prime Day happens to be?” Good question!

Prime Day always falls on a mid-July Tuesday. That date is chosen for two important reasons. First, July is traditionally a slow month for retail. Even with Prime Day, the second quarter of the year is usually the slowest for Amazon. So it makes sense to boost sales in July to stir up some excitement. 

Second (and conversely) Tuesday is the biggest day of the week for online retail. On average, Amazon drives 16.4% of their conversions on Tuesdays. So it’s natural to want to encourage the users who are already coming to Amazon with some extra deal-enhanced merchandising. Maybe I came to buy paper towels but then notice a 25% discount to a skincare product. Don’t mind if I do!

That Tuesday pattern tends to be a consistent retail trend across eCommerce sites by the way, with 16.5% of weekly sales on average across retailers. Sundays and Mondays are the lowest, with 11 and 12 percent of weekly sales. Tuesdays also have the highest high among these 25 retailers (20% of Gap.com’s conversions come on Tuesdays) and the highest low (sears.com with 14.3% of its weekly conversions). I’ve plotted that spread out on this box plot.

By the way, that low on Monday is Staples.com, who apparently sees just 4.2% of its purchases happen on Mondays. What’s that about?

But anyway, to be precise and compare the Tuesday of Prime Day to the Tuesday average for each domain, that boost is still very much real. But the lift is slightly lower across the board.

In fact, by comparing Tuesdays, even Amazon’s boost is slightly less impressive. Because the retail giant averaged over 4.1 million conversions on Tuesdays leading up to Prime Day, their boost is a still-strong 80% increase. This makes the boost lowes.com saw even higher than Amazon’s boost, and Target is still the leader.

Several other retailers who saw an apparent lift actually showed declines when measuring the Tuesday average instead of the daily average. Heavies like walmart.com and eBay actually saw declines against their Tuesday average—hits that might account for their Prime Day gambits this year. And Gap.com, which seemed to have a 23% increase on Prime Day, actually saw a 10% decline when measured by the Tuesday average.

You can be assured that I’ll take weekly variance into account when we measure the effect of Prime Day on other retailers this year. Check back in a couple of weeks to see how Prime Day and all the other smaller deals end up playing out.

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