Amazon Prime Day Invite-Only Deal Targets Buyer Frustration

Lottery Approach Saves Shoppers the Hassle of Constantly Monitoring the Site
An Amazon Prime package
A box with Amazon Prime Day-branded tape. (Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg News)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.] Inc.’s Prime Day sale can be a frustrating experience because the best deals are often gone in seconds. So this year, the company is dangling an “invite-only” promotion designed to give customers a better shot at snagging the bargains they want.

Shoppers request an invite for discounted items they see on the site — 32% off an Acer Swift X laptop, for example — and get an email if the deal is still available. A unique link lets them buy the product during the sale, which kicked off July 11 at 3 a.m. EDT and runs through July 12.

The new promotion adds a kind of lottery effect to some Prime Day bargains and saves Amazon shoppers the hassle of constantly monitoring the site and refreshing their browsers, said Kristin McGrath, editor of RetailMeNot, which monitors online deals.

“This way you either get the deal or you don’t and you don’t waste two days searching for it,” she said.

In a statement, company spokesperson Maria Boschetti said: “Amazon continues to invest in Prime by expanding existing benefits and adding new benefits to add even more value.”

Despite a stubbornly high inflation rate and nagging worries about the U.S. economy, legions of consumers are expected to show up for Amazon’s marquee summer sale. Worldwide, shoppers will spend an estimated $12.9 billion during the event, up about 11% from last year, according to Insider Intelligence.

The two-day event is off to a strong start, according to Numerator, which monitors Prime Day sales from a pool of 1,500 unique shoppers. The average order size as of noon EDT was $59, up 15.3% from the same period during last year’s sale. Apple watches and Amazon brand toilet paper were among the top-selling products, indicating people are looking for deals on electronics and household items.

Amazon launched Prime Day in 2015 to attract new subscribers who pay $139 a year for shipping discounts, video streaming and other perks. The event helps Amazon lock in shoppers before the holidays and deepen its relationship with existing customers by offering them exclusive deals on Amazon gadgets and other products. About 167 million Amazon shoppers in the U.S. had Prime memberships as of March, unchanged from a year earlier, according to market research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners.

Shoppers increasingly see the sale as a valuable aspect of a Prime subscription, according to Prosper Insights and Analytics, which conducts monthly consumer surveys. Some 42% of shoppers said Prime Day deals were one of the reasons they subscribed to Amazon, according to a survey in May, up from 26% four years ago.

Amazon is doing its best to sustain interest by touting “millions of deals,” including as much as 75% off some of its own signature products, such as Alexa-powered Echo Show smart speakers and Amazon Fire televisions. It also promoted the event through TikTok influencers, hoping to draw younger shoppers from the popular social media platform. In one promotion, influencer Alix Earle tallied up all the things she planned to purchase during the sale. Such promotions helped boost Prime Day mentions on TikTok 91% from a year ago, according to ComScore Inc.

In recent years, Amazon rivals such as Walmart Inc. and Target Corp. have drafted off Prime Day, offering their own discounts and boosting online shopping. U.S. e-commerce sales overall are expected to hit $13.1 billion during the sale, up 9.5% from last year, according to Adobe Inc.

Third-party sellers are keen to unload a glut of electronics and apparel during the sale, said Yoni Mazor, founder of GETIDA, a company that helps merchants sell products on Amazon. Many of them bought extra inventory during the pandemic and are still working their way through it, he said.

“They need a good outlet to get rid of that stock, and Amazon does a good job of drumming up demand during the summer, which is usually pretty dry for sales,” he said.

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Prime Day also will fuel Amazon’s advertising business, said Alasdair McLean-Foreman, founder and CEO of Teikametrics, a Boston-based software firm that manages almost $1 billion in annual advertising spending on Amazon, Walmart and other platforms. Amazon is giving advertisers greater visibility into how their campaigns are working in real time, which helps them target their spending more effectively and makes Amazon a good choice for brands otherwise pulling back on their ad spending.

“Brands are putting their money where they feel the most confident, and Amazon has so much information about ad performance,” he said. “Prime Day is going to be successful even though there’s this advertising recession.” Inc. ranks No. 19 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest private carriers in North America.