Black Friday in July for Amazon Prime subscribers returns July 11, when Amazon Prime Day rolls out its third year of big sales. You know the drill: $99-per-year Amazon Prime subscribers have a full day (and then some; sales start 9 p.m. ET on July 10) to scour rock-bottom prices for hot limited-time, limited-quantity deals rolled out every five minutes or so over 30 hours.
It's a rollercoaster gamble for Amazon and its shoppers. In Year 1, Amazon was roundly criticized for dumping unpopular items, garage sale-like. Year 2 Prime Day news was dominated by ordering confusion via Amazon Echo, the in-home smart speaker starring digital assistant Alexa.
For a look at the possibilities of Amazon Prime Day 2017, we reached out to deals experts to see what we can expect to see on sale this year and for strategies to take advantage of those deals in the most effective ways. Here's what we found:
In the build-up to last year's Amazon Prime Day, Amazon took the hard lessons it learned from the initial rollout of Amazon Prime Day, in 2015, and adjusted.
"Amazon caught a lot of heat on social media for its first-ever Prime Day two years ago when the online giant offered less-than-stellar deals such as 10 cents off premium 4K HDTVs and 20% off on 2-inch shoehorns," says consumer-finance expert Andrea Woroch. "Last year, however, Amazon doubled the offers to come back stronger and it certainly can be a great day to shop for savings if there are certain items you need. Shoppers can expect Lightning Deals throughout the day, which are the same time-sensitive offers Amazon promotes during the Black Friday holiday shopping weekend."
Others concur Amazon has likely sharpened its focus on deals even more in 2017.
"Shoppers should get some relief from Prime Day frustrations," says Benjamin Glaser of the deals website DealNews.com. "Last year, Amazon made clearer which deals would sell out the fastest. Plus, most deals clearly show when they will go live. So shoppers can choose to skip the most competitive deals and only be glued to their computers for the deals they really want."
Voice-Activated Deals Amped
Amazon put an emphasis last year on voice-activated deals -- available only by ordering via Alexa on the Amazon Echo and Amazon Echo Dot devices. Expect more of that this year, with the process simplified.
Says Glaser, "Shoppers can also expect lots more Alexa deals, ones that are available only by using a voice-activated, Alexa-enabled device like an Echo and Echo Dot [also Echo Show, Fire TV, Amazon Tap, or a Fire tablet compatible with Alexa]. Amazon had such deals during last Prime Day; they were pretty unpopular, as they added an extra step to the purchasing process and obscured some of the details of the purchase, but Amazon seems determined to make voice-activated spending more common."
As a Prime subscriber (and an Echo owner) I've already been pinged by Amazon about Prime Day deals. I can get a $10 credit to spend with my first Alex deal. To get deals, I just say to my Echo, "Alexa, what are your deals?" Unless I want to hear Alexa mouthing off for however long, a better choice might be to go to the Alexa deals page to see what's what. Oh, and there's free two-day shipping, of course, and free returns on Alexa purchases (likely a response to the complexities of last year).
Some of the Alexa-only deals I saw include a WeMo Mini Smart Plug for $27.99 (discounted $7), an Arlo Q Security Camera 2-pack for $249.99 (discounted $105), a Star Wars Force Awakens Kylo Ren Lightsaber (because why not) for $4.94 (discounted 50%) and a Bose Soundlink Bluetooth Speaker III for $178.01, half off.
Walk-Up Deals and Workarounds
Amazon Prime membership costs $99 per year, or $10.99 a month if you so choose. If you have an Alexa-enabled device and your Prime membership has lapsed (or you never had one), you can ask Alexa to sign you up. You'll save $20 and get a year of Amazon Prime for the ages-ago price of $79.
But you can also score a 30-day Amazon Prime trial for free before payment kicks in and the amenities continue. You could score your free membership, shop Prime Day, then decide whether you want to stick around or cancel.
And don't forget the daily walk-up deals to Amazon Prime Day. They've already started.
Without offering much in the way of specifics, Amazon says it will have "hundreds of thousands of deals" on items.
Brent Shelton of the deal site FatWallet.com says his team expects especially good discounts on "health and beauty items (especially supplements, vitamins, lotions, natural products), household items (bulk toilet paper, garbage bags, food storage), media (books, movies, music especially via Prime subscriptions and services), collectibles (toys and sports) and most Amazon products like the Fire HD tablets, Fire TV stick, Amazon Echo as well as Amazon Basics products like batteries and electronics cable accessories."
FatWallet dug into what was hot last year and some current prices. Their findings:
--80-Count Hefty Ultra Strong Tall Kitchen Drawstring Trash Bags (Blackout, Clean Burst) sold for $8.90 last year, pre-Prime Day price is $12.99;
--The Ultimate Bond Collection + Spectre Bundle (Blu-Ray) sold for $89.99 last year, selling currently for $249.99;
--Blendtec Total Blender, Four Side Jar sold for $279.99 last year, current price is $400.30;
--Garmin Vívofit Fitness Band sold for $39.99 last year, current price is $57.98.
Most deals experts expect Amazon-branded products will be heavily discounted. Says Woroch, "Amazon-brand items are expected to be hot sellers, including Amazon Fire products like the TV Stick and HD7, Amazon Echo and Amazon Elements line of household items. Last year, shoppers saw discounts such as 60% off baby wipes. Shoppers can also expect decent discounts on kitchenware, shoes, clothing and jewelry."
Says Glaser, "The good deals are on electronics, specifically Amazon's own products. Prime Day usually has the best prices of the year on these items, beating out even Black Friday. There will also be good deals on TVs, but these will sell out very quickly. Consumers also might want to keep an eye on items eligible for Prime Pantry and Subscribe and Save, which will see additional discounts on Prime Day, making it a great time to stock up on household essentials."
Watch the Competition
Just like Black Friday, Amazon Prime Day is joined by other retailers looking to compete in the same space. It's a slow time in the world of retail; between summer shopping and back-to-school madness. So anything to ramp up sales, with Amazon leading.
Says Woroch, "Last year, the buzz around Amazon Prime compelled other retailers to host online events of their own. Macy's, for example, offered free shipping on all orders plus site-wide discounts during Prime Day, while Walmart dropped its shipping threshold from $50 to $35."
The team at discount-scouring website Ben's Bargains expects big things from Walmart, noting shoppers should keep an eye out on Walmart's in-store-pickup discount, which rolled out earlier this year. Says Kristopher Kirk, "Walmart is attempting a reverse Amazon Prime model, essentially paying customers to come pick up a purchase by adding an additional discount. Due to the ongoing price war between the two companies, Walmart may attempt to undercut Amazon's pricing on Prime Day by offering hefty pickup discounts on products listed in Prime Day sales."
Other Prime Shopping Strategies
Shoppers looking for Prime Day deals need to step up their game -- today. Deals experts advise that if you have your eyes set on a certain product, know the prices in advance before getting caught up in the pressure of the moment.
Also, before going to your cart and pushing that final buy button, check other websites, other retailers to make sure the price is still a good one. You may find better deals elsewhere. Don't forget local bricks-and-mortar stores, either. Says Woroch, "Some retailers will even price-match if you want to buy it in a store near you."
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