Amazon sellers say Prime Day is a good way to gain new customers and drive sales. But increased advertising costs dampen results. Plus, some retailers expected a bigger bump with the event moving closer to the holiday shopping season.

Day one of Amazon.com Inc.’s sixth-annual Prime Day sale, running Oct. 13-14, is in the books and retailers participating in the two-day sale are expressing a mixed bag of results. Sales are up when compared with a typical sales day at Amazon (No 1 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000) for all the sellers participating in the event that Digital Commerce 360 communicated with. And several retailers say sales are up over Prime Day last year.

However, some merchants say they expected larger jumps with the event moving from July to October, anticipating that deal-seeking shoppers would try and get a jump start on their holiday gift lists. Meanwhile, other merchants say the additional sales are at least partially offset by increased advertising costs on the marketplace during the promotion.

At children’s workbook retailer Channies LLC, Amazon sales yesterday were up by 55% compared with a normal day in October. However, last year, the retailer’s Prime Day sales were up 250% compared with a normal day, says Chan Stimart, president and founder of the four-year-old retailer.

Ad costs increase

Sellers on the marketplace are fighting to get new consumer eyeballs on their products during the event. That’s driving pay-per-click bids and advertising costs up for Amazon’s Sponsored Ads that appear in search results and on product pages, Stimart says.

“I recall the same thing last year,” Stimart says. “Even though we sold more, it doesn’t directly convert because our ad spending increased so much.”

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Jim Tuchler, president of personalized gifts retailer GiftsForYouNow.com, says his company’s sales on Amazon yesterday were up 50% compared with Monday, which is a little less than the 55% sales bump the retailer got last year.

“I am a little surprised that the day-over-day increase wasn’t bigger than prior years, given that this Prime Day is in October and right at the start of holiday shopping,” he says. “I will be very interested in how today plays out.”

Tuchler says he hopes his efforts to advertise things like stockings and ornaments during this high-traffic period will gain his company more exposure in the long-term on the marketplace. “[Hopefully] exposure now will result in some purchases later as people see (products) now and put them in their cart or bookmark them,” he says.

Gaining exposure to new consumers

Several retailers say exposure to new consumers is a key benefit of Prime Day.

“Customers are very deal focused and will filter by Prime Day Deals to find the best offers,” says Lauren Picasso, founder and CEO of Cure Hydration, which sells organic, plant-based powders consumers add to water.  This means they are also more likely to purchase a product or brand they haven’t in the past versus re-ordering from their previous purchases or searching for items they know they need,  she says.

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“We saw a 10x lift in our daily sales last year,” Picasso says. “We offer our best discount of the year on Amazon [during Prime Days] across all products.” There are some products Cure Hydration doesn’t sell on Amazon, such as new or limited edition flavors.

Jessica Eisemann, online retailer manager at personal grooming tools manufacturer Tweezerman, also says exposure is the main reason her company participates in Prime Day.

“The main [benefit] is additional visibility to new customers who are looking at the site for deals,” she says.  “You can speak to these customers by running coupons and deals. You can also increase your brand visibility through advertising campaigns on Amazon.”

Like Stimart of Channies, Eisemann says sellers need to plan their Amazon ad budgets carefully during the event. “The biggest downside is the increase in ad spend if you do not plan properly,” she says. “Cost-per-click typically increases due to the higher traffic.”

She also says it’s important for sellers to ensure they have enough stock to accommodate increased sales. “If your product sells through quickly, that could be a huge downside,” Stimart says.

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Eisemann, who oversees Tweezerman’s Amazon and other online retail accounts, says Prime Day shoppers are looking for compelling deals that they would see on a Black Friday or Cyber Monday. “Usually, they will hold off on big purchases a few weeks leading up to Prime Day. Prime Day is for big-time purchases, while a typical Amazon day is a mix of impulse purchases and replenishment on standard items a consumer needs,” she says.

Amazon also puts policies in place to try to ensure the sales and promotions during the two-day event won’t disappoint consumers. For example, Picasso says Amazon requires that Prime Day discounts are exclusive to Prime members and are at least 5% better than the lowest price on the product over the last 30 days. Additionally, she says the products included in Prime Day deals must have a 3.5 or higher star rating. Amazon.com didn’t respond to a request to confirm these details.

Lighting and home décor retailer Lamps Plus (No. 113 in the Top 1000) said Wednesday morning that its Prime Day sales so far are on track to exceed last year’s event. The retailer, which cut prices on about 2,000 Amazon SKUs for Prime Day, says all its online sales (direct and on Amazon) have been up “significantly” since the pandemic as consumers spend more time at home—and thus more money to beautify it. Plus, the retailer says, so far, its Prime Day sales are up 200%-300% compared with its average online sales since the pandemic.

Skin, hair and beauty products retailer Lovely Skin (No. 646) says its Prime Day sales are up 40% so far compared with Prime Day 2019. Part of this may be pent-up demand as Prime Day didn’t happen in July, says Joel Schlessinger, president of the retailer. “But our numbers this year are strong in general, likely as part of the ongoing tailwind to e-tail that the coronavirus seems to have caused,” he says.

Some retailers pass on Prime Day this year

Meanwhile, some Amazon merchants, including coffee subscription retailer Bean Box and lingerie retailer Adore Me, chose not to participate in the event this year. Instead, they chose to focus on their direct ecommerce sites.

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“We’ve decided to double-down on our direct ecommerce efforts,” says Ryan Fritzky founder and chief marketer at Bean Box. “This week, Bean Box is celebrating Customer Delight Week with special promotions, including free Coffee Cash (rewards dollars) to spend, free shipping, and product giveaways on social. With the unprecedented growth we’ve been experiencing via our direct channel, we are prioritizing [direct sales].”

Last year, Bean Box offered 15% off on all its Amazon products over Prime Day, but experienced “no significant bump” in sales, Fritzky says.

“We have done a mix of flash sales and catalog discounts over the years,” he says. “But for Bean Box, Prime Day hasn’t compared to the spikes we’ve seen during Q2 and Q4 holidays on Amazon.”

Adore Me (No. 316) also chose to pass on Prime Day this year, and instead launched its own event during Prime Day. However, the results have been lukewarm, says Chloe Chanudet, chief marketing officer. “We experimented with an aggressive promotion called ‘VIP Day’ as a test to try to see if there was a major uptick in online shopping across the web on Prime Day, making it more of a national shopping day,” she says. “However, we did not see any noticeably different results compared to previous [similar] promotions.”

Chanudet adds that the cost to acquire customers on Amazon is much more expensive for Adore Me than paid social media. “Amazon advertising has never made sense for us from a margins perspective,” she says.

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Salesforce data suggests a “halo effect” across ecommerce from shoppers heading online yesterday for Prime Day. Online sales for non-Amazon sites grew by 69% globally and 76% in the U.S.  Oct. 13 compared with the first day of Prime Day 2019, according to data from Salesforce.com Inc. The software provider aggregates data from the activity of more than 1 billion global shoppers flowing through its Commerce Cloud platform and extrapolates its clients’ findings to the broader retail industry.

Big retailers compete with Prime Day

Other major retailers ran their own sales during Prime Day, such as Walmart’s (No. 3) Big Save and Target Deal Days. However, Amazon raked in the majority of online customer spending during the first seven hours of Prime Day 2020, according to digital commerce intelligence company Edison Trends.

Amazon garnered 94% of what customers spent online among Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy Co. Inc. (No. 10) and Target Corp. (No. 12) from 3 a.m. to 10 a.m. Eastern on Tuesday. Walmart came next at 3%, followed by Best Buy and Target at 2%. (Percentages add up to more than 100% due to rounding.) This is a change from 2019, when Amazon took 96% of spend in the first seven hours, followed by Walmart at 2% and the other merchants at 1% each. The firm’s data is based on e-receipts from more than 45,000 online transactions accessed through the email of U.S. consumers.

According to data from a Numerator panel, whose insights are based on more than 2,200 verified Prime Day orders, as of 2:15 p.m. Eastern, the average Prime Day order this year is $45.19. Additionally, the average Prime Day item is sold for $33.55. Half of households shopping Prime Day have placed two or more orders, bringing the average household spend to roughly $98.48.

Additionally, 30% of consumers surveyed by Numerator reported purchasing holiday gifts on Amazon, and 51% bought items that were included in Prime Day deals.

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