A Timeline of Amazon Prime Day
Amazon Prime Day has become the Black Friday of summer shopping. In fact, Amazon’s earnings from Prime Day now exceed its earnings on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
But how did Amazon Prime Day reach the point of its monumental success? Let’s have a look back on the last 15 years and see how Prime Day came to be such a massive event.
Amazon Prime Day: A Brief History
2005: Amazon first launches Amazon Prime as a subscription service. At the time, a Prime membership cost $79 annually and offered free two-day shipping on eligible items and discounted one-day shipping. Skeptics wondered how this high price would sustain with customers, but the data speaks for itself: 4 of 5 original Prime members still have their subscriptions.
March 2014: Amazon raises the cost of Prime for the first time, from $79 to $99. The move caused backlash from consumers who resented the 25% increase with little warning, but others pointed out that the service was still cheap and affordable. Throughout 2014, Amazon faced criticism for its profit losses and disappointing revenue, making this price increase seem like a desperate move.
December 2014: The price increase evidently didn’t hurt Prime’s success. Amazon announced after Christmas that holiday shopping had added 10 million new Prime members.
July 2015: Amazon holds its first Prime Day event. To deter the criticism from the prior year, Amazon decided to celebrate its 20th Anniversary with a blowout sale for Prime members. Amazon’s sales on its first Prime Day beat its Black Friday sales in the same year, and more shoppers signed up for Prime than on any other single day in the company’s history. The total day’s revenue was nearly $1 billion. This success indicated that the company clearly onto something with its Prime idea.
April 2015: Amazon opens up Prime to monthly subscribers for a fee of $10.99/mo.
July 2016: Amazon decided to make Prime Day an official annual event with Prime Day 2016. Compared to the first Prime Day, the 2016 sale offered discounts on higher ticket items like TV sets and consumer electronics. It also marked the first time Amazon had technical issues on Prime Day as online shoppers flooded the site’s servers. Still, Prime Day was a hit. Amazon topped 2015’s earnings on that day, bringing in $1.5 billion.
July 2017: For the first time, Amazon offered a preview of sales 24 hours before they went live, allowing shoppers to plan out their experience and nab the deals they were looking for. Alexa users could also make orders 2 hours early. With the technical improvements, Prime Day saw a huge increase in revenue over its past competitors: $2.4 billion.
July 2018: After announcing that Prime Day 2018 would be a 36-hour event, Amazon experienced its most infamous Prime Day Fail to date. Immediately upon launching at noon PST, the site’s servers were bombarded with an unexpectedly high level of traffic as people scrambled for the best deals. It was the internet equivalent of crowds storming the front door of Best Buy on Black Friday. Without enough servers to handle the traffic, Amazon shoppers experienced delays and errors upon checkout. Amazon.com crashed for over an hour before the problem was resolved. This crash cost Amazon an estimated $2 million. It didn’t hurt too badly though – Amazon still smashed previous Prime Day records with $4.2 billion in sales at the day’s end, making the website issue an embarrassing, but ultimately, a minor setback.
July 2019: Prime Day is still happening right now. This year, Amazon’s own products — mainly their tech devices, like the Echo dot and subscription services like Kindle — are dominating the prime day sales.
In future years, we expect to see this trend continue as Amazon places more value on selling their own products and less value on the offers of third party merchants. Is it fair? Of course not, but marketplace sellers can still stay afloat. Stay tuned for a summary of Prime Day 2019 and some insight on how sellers can keep up with a marketplace that seems to be turning against them by the day.