What Is Prime Day? A Beginner’s Guide to Amazon’s Shopping Holiday.

How to find deals, what to avoid, and when is it actually happening

July 28, 2020 2:47 pm
amazon prime day
Amazon's Prime Day 2020 is tentatively scheduled for October
Justin Sullivan / Getty

Amazon’s Prime Day has undergone a few changes since it launched, but never as big as this: The company actually doesn’t know when it’s going to happen in 2020.

Last year the shopping event lasted two days (Monday, July 15 and Tuesday, July 16). This year, the commerce giant has announced the event has been moved to a date TBD, although some sellers did receive a placeholder date of October 5th. (Editor’s note: It’s Oct. 13-14.)

While we’re waiting for Amazon to decide when to throw Prime Day, let’s discuss what Prime Day is all about.

Prime Day is the biggest sale day(s) of the year for the shopping giant, with over 170 million items sold. But disregard the “Black Friday in July” hype, as Prime Day doesn’t always offer what some would consider “good” discounts, even in its fifth year — that is, even when the site isn’t crashing.

Still, when Internet Retailer did an analysis of Prime Day last year, they discovered it was a massive success, and a made-up event that continues to grow. By their estimates, sales hit $7.16 billion globally over the 48-hour period, up 71% from the $4.19 billion sold during the 36-hour sales event in 2018.

So, within those 48 hours and thousands of deals, there’s bound to be something worth buying. And there’s a gamified element here, with sales updated constantly, ending quickly and spread out through dozens of categories and over several mediums (Amazon’s site, the app, Alexa devices, etc.). 

It’s a lot of information to take in, but when Prime Day finally happens, we’ll be there covering the worthy deals — though, making things more complicated, many deals pop up early. And a number of competitors (Walmart, Target, etc.0 started their own variations on Prime Day, on or around the same days, although that might not hold true in 2020.

Below, a cheat sheet to all things Prime Day. 

When does Prime Day start? Prime Day for 2020 is tentatively scheduled to kick off October 5th, though that hasn’t been confirmed.

Not a Prime member? Have a family member share their Prime benefits at no extra cost. Or start a 30-day free trial.

Where do I find the deals? Go here

Can I just start shopping now? Yep. Besides sales already up on the site, the Amazon App has an option for you to “watch this deal” and get notified when your item actually goes on sale. 

What’s Amazon going to offer as incentives? Last year, there were a few $10 bonuses and credits available if you signed into the Amazon app for the first time, installed Amazon Assistant on your desktop, reloaded your Amazon gift card balance or spent $10 or more at Amazon-owned Whole Foods.

What were the best-selling items from 2019 Prime Day? Lifestraw Water Filters were the big, non-Amazon winner from last year. Otherwise, it’s a lot of Amazon devices (eero, Fire, Echo, etc.), plus Instant Pots, 23andMe health kits and smart home devices.

But TechCrunch got it right in that it’s not necessarily what products Amazon sells, but the selling of Amazon to customers. “The largest and most important aspect to Prime Day is not ultimately the sales themselves, but the Prime memberships,” they noted last year right after Prime Day. “This locks in consumers to Amazon’s e-commerce ecosystem for a year, and gives Amazon a chance to win their loyalty when it comes time to resubscribe.”

What about this year? We don’t know yet.

Are these actually good deals? It really depends, but Tom’s Guide suggests bookmarking the price tracking site CamelCamelCamel along with Fakespot, which analyzes customer reviews to see if they’re real. For things to avoid … this year’s TVs, “bundles,” Lightning Deals, big-ticket buys you don’t need or obsolete tech.

What do I look for when I’m shopping? Search for items with a “Prime Day” badge. Also, several new products will launch for Prime members only on this page.

Who should I be following for deal updates? Well, us, for starters. As well, The Wirecutter offers a pretty thorough roundup of sales, via their Deals page, Twitter account and Daily Deals newsletter. Fun fact: that New York Times-owned product guide only posted 258 recommended deals out of nearly 50,000 offered. 

After seeing that John Oliver report last year, I’m not sure I enjoy the idea of putting Amazon warehouse workers through all this. Those workers agree with you. And COVID hasn’t made it any better.

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