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Amazon’s First October Prime Day Jumpstarts Holiday Spending

As the retail world gears up for Amazon’s famed Prime Day, industry insiders believe this year’s sale may present different outcomes and challenges than years past.

For one, the date of the sale has been pushed from its usual timing in July to Oct. 13-14, much closer to the start of the traditional holiday shopping season. JP Morgan analysts believe the two-day haul could reel in $7.5 billion, a 42 percent uptick over last year’s $5.3 billion tally, CNBC reported Monday.

“The pandemic has changed retail, and the delayed timing of Amazon’s Prime Days will be making its mark on the 2020 holiday season,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor, retail for retail advisory firm NPD. “Consumers are already entering this earlier-than-ever start to the holiday season with a different shopping mindset, and this is retail’s chance to emphasize the notion that early is better when making holiday purchases—when it comes to inventory, shipping, and deals.”

According to Mousumi Behari, digital strategy practice lead at Avionos, Prime Day’s delay could be a boon to businesses selling on the platform that have been unsure about how their seasonal sales would pan out amid Covid-induced reductions in consumer spending. “Delaying Amazon Prime Day to October will help the holiday shopping season,” she said, adding that gift giving is now “top of mind” for many shoppers as they head into fall.

The timing has also given Amazon and its third-party vendors a bit of time to streamline the inventory and shipping issues that plagued the platform earlier this year, as pandemic-related orders of cleaning supplies and provisions flooded the site, nearly knocking it out of commission. To head off the holiday rush, Amazon invested in 100,000 full-time and part-time employees for the fall season across the U.S. and Canada, and opened 100 fulfillment and sortation centers in September alone.

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Despite those earlier headwinds, Amazon shoppers appear to be confident that the e-tailer has worked out the kinks, and are ready to shop with gusto.

Thirty-six percent of consumers have been waiting for an online sales event, like Prime Day this October or Black Friday in November, to begin their holiday shopping, according to data from growth marketing firm Iterable. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they planned to use Amazon for their holiday shopping more than they had in previous years. Data from Episerver, a digital experience company, showed more insights favoring the online giant. More than half (52 percent) of all U.S. consumers surveyed would begin their holiday shopping on Amazon, while 53 percent said they planned to buy all or most of their gifts on the platform.

Data from NPD underscores these findings. In addition to the 57 percent of surveyed consumers planning to do at least some, if not all, of their holiday shopping during the online event, another 18 percent believe Prime Day is the best time to get the best deals, slightly behind the 20 percent who finger Black Friday as the top bargain-hunting day. However, nearly two-thirds, or 63 percent, of consumers say they are very likely to compare Prime Day deals with rival retailer promotions prior to purchasing.

According to Raj De Datta, CEO and co-founder of software firm Bloomreach, the end-of-year shopping spree is already underway. The company’s recent data showed that queries for “Christmas” appeared among the top 20 search terms in September—one whole month earlier than in 2019. Based on Bloomreach’s insights into consumer web search patterns, De Datta said that the majority of shoppers (68 percent) would begin their holiday shopping by early November—an 11 percent surge from the year prior.

With e-commerce playing a larger role in holiday shopping than perhaps ever before, a number of retail players are looking to cash in on Amazon’s Prime Day cachet. Target’s Deal Days will take place on the same days as Prime Day, while Walmart’s web-based Big Save sale began on Oct. 11 and will run through Oct. 15.

“The biggest difference between Target Deal Days and Amazon Prime Day is that at Target there is no need for the hefty membership fee,” Avionos’ Behari said. Target shoppers also have access to omnichannel shopping services, like buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS), or same-day delivery through logistics arm Shipt, giving them more ways to shop. In an attempt to remain competitive with Amazon throughout the rest of the season, Target has also announced Black Friday pricing throughout the month of November, as well as an extended price-match policy to give shoppers the assurance that they’ll get the best deals.

Behari characterized the customer as the “real winner” amid the retail price wars, with access to convenient fulfillment options and deep discounts. “Customers can start keeping an eye out now on what they want, compare prices on all three retailers and create a strategy that will guarantee them big savings.”

Deborah Weinswig, CEO and founder of Coresight Research, said that shopping festivals taking place this October will undoubtedly “pull forward holiday shopping.” Coresight’s recent survey revealed that 70 percent of shoppers expect to purchase or at least browse Amazon’s Prime Day. Meanwhile, 40 percent said they would check out promotions in Coresight, Fashwire and Shopkick’s inaugural 10.10 Shopping Festival, which took place over the weekend, and equal numbers said they would peruse deals at Target and Walmart’s shopping holidays.

“Specifically, some 26.7 percent were planning to purchase during Amazon’s shopping event,” Weinswig said, “while around one in 10 have such intention during the other three rival events.”

Echoing Weinswig’s assertion that holiday shopping will likely begin early because of these sales events, Andy Mantis, chief business officer of 1010Data, said that his group would be “watching to see whether, on a macro level, Prime Day draws from November and December sales.”

“In fact, many of the top retailers have lined up offerings for this year’s [Prime Day] event and, given the potential for less discretionary spending, not getting an early enough start could have an impact on how successful their holiday season will be,” he added.

1010Data plans to track the shifts in consumer spending that have occurred throughout the Covid crisis, he said, as well as the performance of Target and Walmart, which are seeking a piece of Amazon’s Prime Day pie.

But in addition to generating sales through these promotions, retailers should use Prime Day’s buzz to make lasting inroads with shoppers, according to product data platform Productsup’s chief marketing officer, Marcel Hollerbach.

“Given tighter budgets brought on by the pandemic and economic uncertainty, retailers need to ensure they’re using Amazon Prime Day as a way to bolster their relationships with customers,” he said, “rather than counting a high volume of sales and calling it a success.”

Data is key to ensuring both a successful sale and generating valuable insights to take forward into future decisions, he added. “Retailers should ensure their product data is updated frequently and that inventory and feed management is automated, refreshing multiple times a day,” he cautioned. “If a customer goes to buy an item that’s out of stock, or receives an item in the mail that’s vastly different than what they thought they were purchasing, that’s a lost customer for life.”

Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.