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Amazon Prime Day: An Experiment for 2020 Holiday Shopping

Six months into remote working and social distancing, it’s pretty safe to say we’re all very familiar with Amazon. 

And if you’ve been using Amazon for more than a handful of deliveries, you’ve probably invested in Amazon Prime which means free deliveries, a streaming service, and access to their annual deals event. 

This year, Amazon Prime Day is happening over October 13-14th. Prime Day has always been a virtual event; but even if it looks the same on the surface, this isn’t business as usual in 2020. 

According to IBM’s U.S. Retail Index, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the consumer shift to e-commerce by five years. How will this affect Prime Day – and the upcoming Black Friday and Boxing Week sales that will likely be going digital?

We surveyed 1,000 Americans, census-weighted across age, gender, ethnicity, and region to get an idea of who the consumers are and what motivates them to spend as we approach the holiday season. 

Who’s Shopping on Amazon Prime Day?

Overall 46% of those surveyed said they wouldn’t be participating. That’s only a little under half! Does this lack of interest indicate a growing consumer fatigue? After spending months online shopping, are consumers starting to hit a wall? 

Not quite. We found a 5% overall increase in the number of people who plan to participate this year over last year. And when you dig into how this changed year-over-year based on demographics, it gets pretty interesting.

While 80% of 35-44 year olds are planning to participate in Prime Day, 77% of those 65 years and over aren’t planning to load up their carts. It’s not too surprising that younger shoppers are more interested in a virtual event. In 2019, 79% of 35-44 year olds surveyed shopped during Prime Day. Most of this demographic is comfortable with online shopping, which is reflected in the year-over-year steadiness. 

What is surprising is the noticeable difference in the 65 years and over category. 81% surveyed said they didn’t participate in 2019, meaning there is a 4% increase in interest for a virtual shopping event this year. 

No one needs to ask what’s changed – the entire world changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. And in thinking about how the pandemic affects each of us, it’s encouraging that the highest-risk demographic is increasingly turning to online shopping to stay safe.  

What’s Their Motivation?

There are five psychological triggers that push people into making a purchase:

  1. Retail therapy – also known as “shopper’s high” and the reason for a lot of credit card debt
  2. Competition – the FOMO factor of buying something in short supply
  3. Escapism – shopping out of boredom
  4. Shopping momentum – once you start, it’s hard to stop
  5. Perceived value – people love the idea of saving money

These are all triggers that encouraged spending back when everything was “normal”. How will these triggers affect consumers that have been shut in their houses for the past six months? Three of these triggers will play a bigger role than previous years, due to our current state of events.

1. Retail therapy

Life has been difficult for everyone lately – for a multitude of reasons. Shopping to take your mind off that, even for a few minutes, is very appealing.

2. Escapism

With the increasingly smaller list of social-distancing activities as we head into fall and winter, boredom is creeping in from all sides. An online shopping event is still an event, and people are craving something to do.

3. Perceived value

This one is critical. More than 175 million items were purchased worldwide in the 2019 Prime Day event. With this year’s event being so close to the start of holiday shopping season, how many people are planning to get the jump on holiday plans? 

According to those we surveyed, 52% of those planning to shop during Amazon Prime Day are starting their holiday shopping. With the economic recession, holiday budgets are going to be tight. Consumers are looking for deals, and if they can lock them down early it’s all the better.   

Marketers Can’t Forget About Logistics

As marketers amp up their holiday campaigns they do need to keep certain logistical factors in mind if they want to ensure positive buying experiences. 91% of online shoppers feel they can find everything (or most things) online, and it really can feel like there are limitless choices and inventory. But that’s not exactly the case. 

Amazon Prime Day is usually held in July to celebrate the founding of the company. But due to COVID and its effect on supply-chains, this year’s event was delayed to October. And along with supply-chain issues come warehouse concerns – will the deals this year include more digital offerings as a way to mitigate those risks?

Don’t forget about what happens after the purchase. If someone’s shopping in a store then the moment of purchase is when the experience ends. But that hasn’t made the transition to the digital buyer’s experience. Once a purchase is made, the delivery period starts, and that needs to be considered as part of the buyer’s journey. If the follow-up emails are unclear, tracking information is missing, or shipments are delayed it all adds to a negative perception of the experience and the brand. 

B2C marketers everywhere are going to be watching Amazon Prime Day to study how consumers react. Their own holidays campaigns have likely been locked in by now, but this is an opportunity to see how successful those plans may be – while leaving a little time to adapt and pivot.