Prime Day. Amazon’s biggest promotional event. It’s become a global phenomenon matched in the West only by Black Friday in terms of sales and cultural significance.
Brands across the world will be planning their Prime Day strategies, but that makes cutting through all of the competition AND achieving your business goals much harder.
Rising above the noise on Prime Day requires a steely determination and focus on what you want to achieve, and it’s crucial to know the products best equipped to help you maximise holiday sales.
Once you’ve got a handle on that, Prime Day success boils down to:
- Understanding Sales Performance
- Driving Traffic to your Offers
- Planning for and Adjusting to Higher Prime Day CPCs
- Knowing What your Success Criteria is and What to Measure
- Building Strong Operational Foundations
Let’s start this guide by looking at when Prime Day 2021 is and the key dates you’ll need to know in order to take part in this year’s main event.
What is Prime Day?
Prime Day is Amazon’s big-ticket annual sales event. Amazon invests a huge amount into promoting the extravaganza, which attracts millions of ‘ready to buy’ consumers. Products are heavily discounted in the expectation that brands can sell vast quantities of units.
Prime Day is now a global event. As Amazon has spread into new countries, so has Prime Day. The event will take place in all of these countries.
- The Netherlands
- United Arab Emirates
When is Prime Day?
It was held in October in 2020 due to the pandemic, but it will be back in its normal month, July, in 2021.
Amazon is yet to announce the exact dates, but we expect it to be mid-to-late July. Prime Day is usually on the same dates in all countries.
We will publish the event dates here as soon as Amazon announces them.
The exact dates aren’t as important as knowing the key deadlines that you will need to meet in order to take part in Prime Day. Let’s now look at those important dates in Amazon’s most important markets.
What are the Key Dates?
Whether you sell on Amazon through Vendor or Seller Central you will need to submit your promotion plans to Amazon by these dates. Don’t forget them!
And, be nice to your logistics team. Make sure they are involved so that they can ensure enough inventory is available and it will get to Amazon on time.
Why Use Prime Day?
As we’ve already discussed, consumers flock to Amazon during Prime Day. More accurately, they flock into Amazon just before, during AND after Prime Day. We’ll discuss the implications of this in the ‘How to Increase Sales’’ section.
Everyone knows that Prime Day is an opportunity to bag some serious bargains.
But put yourself in the consumers’ shoes. They know they’ll find bargains, most will have an idea of the type of products they want to buy but they won’t know who or what discounts will be available during the promotion.
It’s really important that you understand this because it gets to the heart of why Prime Day is a fantastic opportunity for any brand, large or small.
What more could you want than a ready-to-buy yet open-minded audience of millions?
Taking part in Prime Day is not just about the direct sales accrued it’s also about the potential halo effect that products can experience thanks to the way Amazon’s algorithm works.
Let’s take an example from one of our clients.
We launched a Japanese whisky with very low brand awareness into the UK market in August 2020. From a standing start, it went on to sell £60k in December. Obviously, Christmas plays a part in that sales spike but it doesn’t matter how much demand there is if no one sees your product.
Getting in front of customers in a timely manner comes down to the smart use of promotional campaigns. With Prime Day landing in October we knew that an aggressive campaign would boost sales and, more importantly, boost organic rankings.
And the theory worked. Sales generated during Prime Day made Amazon’s algorithm take notice. Selling a lot of units, and importantly far more than competitors, meant Amazon’s search algorithm rewarded the product.
It took ‘prime’ position in the top 3 ranking positions for our target keywords BEFORE the Christmas demand hit. With that boost in sales also came a glut of positive reviews.
Discoverability + social proof + a lot more demand = a bumper Christmas for this little-known Japanese whisky.
How to Set Objectives and Choose the Right Products
Short term, your objectives will be to sell as many products as possible.
By and large, you will get to decide how many units you put forward into a Prime deal, so you’ll easily be able to calculate the total discount amount and how much marketing spend you need to invest to achieve that sell-through.
Let’s say you are going to discount a $20 product with a 20% promotion. You’re ‘funding’ a $4 discount.
The tricky bit is deciding how many units to allocate. There are a few ways to weigh this up:
- Allocate a Marketing Budget and Work Backwards: Treat the discount as marketing spend, e.g. I am willing to allocate $40,000 to the discount. The number of units is then simply 40,000/4 = 10,000. Easy.
- Estimate demand during Prime Day: This is much harder if you don’t have historical data to fall back on. If you don’t have that data, then you have to use some assumptions. Start by saying, ‘if we increased traffic from the current volumes by X%, what would that mean in terms of additional sales?’ Don’t overcomplicate this by then trying to work out the impact of the discount on your conversion rate.
- Set a Revenue Target and Work Backwards: Start by working out how much revenue you ideally want to make. Let’s say you want to make $50,000 during Prime Day. Then, at the discounted price, how many units do I need to sell to make the $50k? You can then also work out how much extra traffic you need to generate to achieve that sell-through.
So short-term, Prime Day is all about increasing sales. Forget about trying to increase profitability. There’s a time and a place for that, but it definitely isn’t Prime Day.
As I explained in our Japanese whisky example, the really smart sellers know how to leverage Prime Day for long-term gain. Everyone can do this. You’ve just got to know what your long-term objectives are.
5 Long Term Benefits from Prime Day
- Increasing Lifetime Value: You sell a product that people are likely to repeat purchase, e.g. toothpaste. Grabbing a large, new audience in a very short space of time can enable brands to quickly build up a loyal audience that continues to buy. Profitability comes from this long term relationship.
Use the Brand Analytics customer lifetime value report to track the increase in repeat purchase. If you want to do this manually then this article will show you how to calculate lifetime value on Amazon
- Boosting Organic Rankings: Here’s a simple but crucial truth to selling on Amazon. The more sales you make, the more organic exposure Amazon’s algorithm will give to your products. Prime Day is there to be leveraged. Boost sales and your organic rankings will improve.
It may also be useful to track performance against competitors. Again, keyword tracking tools can do this.
- Increase Market Share: The beauty of Amazon is that it’s easy to estimate how well your products are selling compared to your competitors.
There are two ways to do this
- Compare Best Seller Rank
Simply, record the Best Seller Rank listed on the product page before and after Prime Day for your product and a basket of competitor products. If your product has a higher sales rank or is moving more quickly up the rankings than competitors then you know you’re outselling or quickly catching up with them.
- Compare sales estimates with a tool like JungleScout
These tools do a daily check of changes in inventory levels on every product and then estimate the number of sales. The estimates are reliable and consistent across different products. Start by calibrating your actual sales with what JungleScout has calculated for your products. It’s usually within a 15% margin of error. Track sales for a list of competitors and calculate your product’s revenue as a percentage of the total revenue of all products. Track this before and the months after Prime Day to see whether you’ve increased your market share.
- Increasing Brand and Product Awareness: This one is inherently more nebulous to measure but sits on solid retail marketing theory. Prime Day attracts millions of customers. Getting your product in front of such a large audience and attracting some of them to buy the product there and then will inevitably create a great deal of exposure.
If you’re a start-up or launching a new product, there are probably very few better ways to generate exposure with a highly targeted, ready-to-buy audience.
You may want to consider analysing search trends on and off Amazon and social media monitoring to understand whether the exposure has translated into a longer-term interest in your products.
- Protect Your Position: The previous 4 benefits largely centre around increasing awareness for challenger products. But if everyone is gearing up to leverage Prime Day to become an Amazon bestseller then that also means that the current bestsellers have to defend their position. No one can rest on their laurels when it comes to selling on Amazon.
If your product is the best seller, then you’ll know that you’re not selling marginally more than competitors but taking a large chunk of the market (it’s a winner takes all environment). Even being number 2 can mean a vast drop-off in sales.
This is why you see even big brands and best sellers engaging with Prime Day. Protecting a dominant position means never taking the foot off the pedal.
You may have noticed that this section talks a lot about product and less about brand or company objectives.
There’s a good reason for that. Success on Amazon comes from a steely focus on product sales. There is no halo brand effect whereby one best selling product means other products start to sell more.
Strategy is bottom up. Or more accurately product-up.
Deciding which products to enter into Prime Day and what the objectives are for each of those products depend on many factors. Here’s how to start those deliberations;
- What are your overall objectives at an account and product level?
- Are you trying to increase sales and/or market share?
- Is profitability your objective? If so, is Prime Day really the right fit for your strategy?
- Can a Prime deal contribute towards achieving those objectives?
- Does that differ for different products? Usually, brands have different objectives based on the product maturity e.g. is it new to Amazon and you need to kickstart sales? has it been on Amazon for a long time and you want to protect market share?
- How will you capture data to understand whether the deal has or hasn’t helped you to achieve the wider objectives? (this one is easily forgotten)
What Type of Prime Day Promotions can you run?
When it comes to promotion types, Amazon doesn’t give much room for creativity. Prime Day promotions are basically a cash or percentage discount open to all Prime account holders. The seller will apply that discount to a fixed amount of inventory. Sellers need to submit their deals and inventory amounts to Amazon by the dates set out earlier in this article.
You have control over the cash or percentage discount. How big you go on the discount will depend on your margins and objectives.
The more margin you have the bigger discount you may feel comfortable with.
Fundamentally, the bigger the discount the more sales you will achieve. It doesn’t take a genius to work that out but you have to anchor the discount to an allocated budget e.g. 20% discount that will ‘cost’ me $10,000 if I sell all units. You’ve got to know what your maximum exposure will be and be comfortable with that.
Expect to see other sellers offering 20%-30% discounts but it is not uncommon so see 40% and above.
We don’t recommend anything lower than 15% because it will be much, much harder to gain traction.
There are exceptions to this rule;
- You’re a premium or highly-regarded brand that rarely offers discounts
- Price points are above $100/£100/€100
TIP: Don’t forget that you can still run standard Amazon promotions. Lightning Deals (limited-time-only sales) and Coupons (a regular discount or multi-buy offer) work extremely well throughout the year and this will remain true during Prime Day. You can set this up for any date and duration which gives you more control over your promotional activity in the lead-up and after Prime Day.
How to Increase Sales During Prime Day
So, you’ve worked out your objectives, you’ve decided on which products to include and you’ve set a discount amount that reflects the objectives, margins, and product lifecycle.
The next big question is how do you crush the competition by driving more traffic to your offers?
Here we’ll discuss 3 strategies that form the core of any great Prime Day marketing strategy
I’ve alluded to this already but now let’s delve a little deeper into the fact that consumer attention doesn’t start and finish on the Prime Day dates. People start to browse in the days beforehand and continue to look out for deals once the event has finished.
Any Vendor Manager worth their salt should be advising brands to capitalise on this extra demand. Why is it so important? It comes down to supply and demand.
Most sellers will be solely focused on the couple of days that form Prime Day. They won’t give a moment’s thought to the days that surround the event. But consumers are different, they see Amazon’s marketing campaigns, they get excited, they browse and make lists before Prime Day and they stick around after the event.
What does this mean for advertisers? Happy days, there’s a burst of attention and demand from consumers but other advertisers are waiting for the big event. As a result, CPCs are much lower before and after Prime Day but you will still be able to attract plenty of sales.
Note that you won’t be able to offer Prime Day deals during these periods but you can use Lightning Deals and Coupons. They’ll be just as effective.
Smart brands will capitalise on these nuances.
A second important consideration is that just as Prime Day creates a halo effect on sales after the event you can ramp up advertising in the weeks before Prime Day to experience the same uplift in rankings and then capitalise on that greater exposure during the main event.
We call this concept ‘pulsing’. Spike your advertising budget before key moments so more customers are able to discover your products when the great swathe of demand hits during the peak sales period.
Lastly, do expect CPCs to rise. It’s inevitable. More advertisers willing to spend more money means only one direction of travel for CPCs. This chart from our friends at Pacvue says it all.
Note: 2020 CPCs were generally higher because of the pandemic and Prime Day being delayed until Q4.
The good news is that higher advertising costs are counter-balanced by increased conversion rates.
If you need to forecast sales during Prime Day then make sure you consider both variables.
Advertising on Amazon is a central part of your armoury but we can say that for all sellers. It results in everyone scrapping for the demand that exists on Amazon. That’s why CPCs increase.
Sponsored Ads are vital, but to rise above the scrappy fight for clicks, you need to find other ways to generate traffic. That’s where your off-Amazon channels come in.
Most commonly your channel mix will include
- Paid Social advertising
- Organic Social Media campaigns
- Email subscribers
The beauty of advertising outside of Amazon is that the CPC pressures will be far less acute.
Secondly, if your competitors aren’t promoting their offers outside of Amazon but you are then you immediately gain a competitive advantage. You can attract more customers and win the long game.
We’ll finish traffic generation with a very powerful but less talked-about approach. And that is affiliate marketing.
If you’re new to Amazon affiliate marketing then I recommend reading this quick primer from Marketplace Pulse.
Put simply, media organisations, bloggers, influencers will all be preparing content for Prime Day. It’s a cash cow for them.
Here’s why. As we’ve discussed, consumers know there will be discounts but they won’t know which products will be discounted. Curated experiences from these ‘middlemen and women’ help consumers find the right deals for them.
Let’s say you’re in the market for a food blender. You know there will be lots of discounts but you don’t want the bother looking through every offer.
Instead, you search ‘best blender prime day offers’ or go to your favourite technology/kitchen content creators to see what they have to say.
And here’s what you find.
Braun’s appearance here isn’t a happy accident. Their PR/affiliate marketing team will have identified the right media organisations and content creators then pitched their products.
Get yourself a niche PR agency that has a ready-made black book of bloggers, influencers and journalists to tap into. If you can’t stretch to this then hire an affiliate marketing agency on a cost-per-sale basis or do the research yourself.
If you’re doing it yourself, start by searching Google for the types of phrases that your target audience will search for e.g. ‘best blender prime day deals’.
List all of the websites, find the contact details of the journalists and reach out to them.
Do the same with YouTube and other platforms where you expect your audience to hang out.
Affiliate marketing works a treat because the traffic has an extremely high intent to purchase, and often you can pay on a commission basis. It’s low risk but with potentially huge upsides.
Execute it well and just like other ‘off Amazon’ channels you’ll be able to crush your competitors.
What Operational Considerations do you Need to Factor in?
We’ve gone through all of the ways in which you can capitalise on Prime Day but none of this will work unless your operations are finely tuned.
There are two important considerations here;
- Inventory: Will you have enough inventory and can you get that into Amazon’s fulfilment centres (if you’re using Fulfilment by Amazon) in time for Prime Day. REMEMBER, Amazon will be slower to process inbound shipments in the weeks leading up to Prime Day. Give yourself extra time to accommodate the likelihood of delays.
- Your time: I’m assuming you’re responsible for the success of your Prime Day campaign. It’s such an integral part of a successful Amazon strategy. The fact that it only comes around once a year adds to the pressure. Make sure you have a clear roadmap and know the critical path towards success. Don’t let other activities distract you from making sure you deliver the best possible campaign. Some things can wait, executing a brilliant Prime Day campaign can’t.
Every great Amazon store is built on strong operational foundations. Do not forget that in the rush to capitalise on Prime Day.
Amazon Prime Day gives brands the opportunity to rapidly increase sales. It’s a wondrous thing that has brought success to businesses worldwide.
But with that great opportunity comes a need to think smartly about objectives, budget, product selection, marketing strategy and operations.
As with everything to do with selling on Amazon, it’s an all-around game. Let one of these areas fall down and the whole thing can collapse.
Get it right, and Prime Day offers unprecedented potential to exponentially increase brand and product awareness. It not only creates immediate revenue but if you follow my guidelines it can provide value and a path to profitability well into the future.
To summarise, focus on making sure you know your deadlines-Amazon’s, and the deadlines you’ll need to hit internally to meet those deadlines.
Be laser-focused on what you want to achieve for the products you’re entering into Prime Day. Back that up with a mixture of ‘on-Amazon’ and ‘off-Amazon’ marketing activity and measure your KPIs during and beyond the extravaganza.
Assuming that you’ve discovered this article as a brand seeking to rise above the competition this Prime Day, we hope that you’re now well on your way to achieving your business goals. If you have any unanswered questions or would like assistance with any aspect of your ‘Prime Day plans’, do get in touch with one of our specialist account strategists, who’d be more than happy to help – firstname.lastname@example.org.