Amazon Prime Day Isn’t What it Used to Be, and Amazon Knows This

July 13th, 2022 | Lierin Melvin

I have been following and reporting on Prime Day for four years now, and this year feels particularly meretricious with its deals and dull with how it produced buzz for the big day. This may be the result of inflation (deals on practical items like paper towels may come off more attractive these days), Amazon hitting a saturation point with consumers or the corporate shift within the company in its post-Bezos era, but Amazon Prime Day now lacks the exclusive and deal-finding luster of yore.

When looking at landing pages of current Prime Members, they all advertise the same thing: paper towel products, power strips, and Fire Sticks. Non-Prime members have the same promotions, just with a plea to sign up for Prime.

Source: Amazon Landing pages as of 7/12/2022 at 10AM CT.

While it’s hard to tie down reasons right now, there is one thing that is certain: Consumers aren’t as interested anymore. When looking at Google Trends for “Amazon Prime Day,” there is a very clear decline in searches since the sale’s historical peak in 2018.

Source: Google Trends [01/01/2016 – 07/12/2022] as of 07/12/2022

The thing is…as we can see from its drastically shifted marketing strategy, Amazon is well aware of this changing sentiment. In this blog post, I explore how Amazon has changed its marketing strategy to accommodate the shifting perspectives, as well as preemptively tackle the topic on everyone’s mind: inflation. As a result of these changes, in contrast to previous years, Amazon is less concerned about generating new Prime customers than it is motivating current customers to browse its deals for the sale.

Amazon Cut Back on Marketing Budgets

Perhaps as a way to mitigate potential losses due to consumer disinterest and inflationary concerns and its resulting lack of disposable income, Amazon has actually cut back its marketing spend budget for Prime Day -16% year-over-year.

Source: Mintel analysis of Pathmatics [6/1/2021 – 6/20/2021; 6/21/2022 – 7/11/2022] as of 07/12/2022

Spend includes: display, online video, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and National TV. Timeframes span the 20-day period prior to the respective Prime Days.

In addition, Amazon also significantly cut back its music artist sponsorships for 2022. While the retailer launched a Prime Day Show in 2019 with Taylor Swift, it has omitted its annual concert completely, and Amazon cut back campaigns that leverage an artist’s sponsorship by -72%. This year’s partnership with Jon Batiste just isn’t as visible as last year’s with Billie Eilish.

Source: Mintel analysis of Pathmatics [6/1/2021 – 6/20/2021; 6/21/2022 – 7/11/2022] as of 07/12/2022

Amazon’s sponsorship strategy isn’t the only thing that is more demure in 2022.

Amazon’s Deals Aren’t ‘Epic’ or ‘Big’ Anymore’

When it comes to how Amazon positions its deals in marketing, there is an apparent shift in how Amazon speaks to these deals. Rather than position the Prime Day Deals as “epic” or “big,” as Amazon did in 2021, Amazon now refers to the deals as “dream deals.”

Source: Mintel analysis of Pathmatics [6/1/2021 – 6/20/2021; 6/21/2022 – 7/11/2022] as of 07/12/2022

This nuanced change in messaging reflects how Amazon feels about its deals and how it’s trying to sell Prime Day Deals to its customers: its deals about purchasing those products you’ve been waiting to treat yourself to. However, due to the prevalence of everyday essentials in its sale and the deprioritization of bigger-ticket items, there appears to be a slight disconnect in this messaging and what is offered.

While Amazon now relies less on its big-budget sponsorships and “epic” deals, it’s shifted its focus as a sort of insurance policy to make sure the deal period stays profitable.

Amazon Increased Consumer Messaging via Email

Rather than spend money on marketing to generate more Prime membership sign-ups, Amazon is instead reminding its current Prime members of the deals available for Prime Day, and it’s doing so in a cost-effective manner: Email. Volume in the channel increased 59% year-over-year.

Source: Mintel ePerformance [6/1/2021 – 6/20/2021; 6/21/2022 – 7/11/2022] as of 07/12/2022
Timeframes span the 20-day period prior to the respective Prime Days.

When looking at the top emails, it’s clear that Amazon is now using the channel primarily to motivate current customers to shop its deals, even using eye-popping visuals to promote a “Prime Member Exclusive” cash back deal, rather than just a discount.

Source: Mintel ePerformance [6/1/2021 – 6/20/2021; 6/21/2022 – 7/11/2022] as of 07/12/2022

Though current customers are a big part of its strategy this year, Amazon is cultivating a new strategy that may strengthen its Prime Day revenue stream: Partnerships.

Amazon Now Relies More on Partnerships and B2B Opportunities

While consumer interest dies down for Prime Day, Amazon is exploring two ways to revive revenue for this period: selling ad space and leveraging the reach of financial partners.

This year for Prime Day, Amazon allocated significantly more spend toward advertising to business owners ad space on Amazon during Prime Day. This investment points to a new strategy: increase advertising revenue during Prime Day, not just revenue from product sales or Prime membership sign-ups.

Source: Mintel analysis of Pathmatics [6/1/2021 – 6/20/2021; 6/21/2022 – 7/11/2022] as of 07/12/2022

Additionally, Amazon is leveraging the brand equity of its BNPL partner, Affirm, in order to drive traffic to Prime Day. This year, Affirm spent $108k on campaigns that mentioned Prime Day. Through its messaging, it’s apparent that Amazon is leveraging Affirm’s reach and an inflation-friendly 0% APR to attract new customers.

Source: Comperemedia [6/21/2022 – 7/11/2022] as of 07/12/2022

What We Think: Advertise a Prime Membership as Inflation-Proofing Retail

According to Mintel, three out of four consumers are concerned about inflation, and US consumers who describe their financial situation as healthy dropped by 15% from March to June. As a result, 35% of consumers plan to cut back on spending in the next three months. With this information in mind, our experts recommend retailers should be transparent about increasing (or decreasing!) prices of products, explain the why, and explain what additional value the retailer could provide.

Amazon should take note of this approach for Prime Day and instead position the day as inflation-proofing a consumer’s wants and needs. This looks like:

  1. Advertise products both from a discount perspective and compare the price difference year-over-year
  2. Address inflation up front in marketing, and how Prime Day will still hold value during an inflationary period
  3. Stress added benefits that may be new to 2022 to justify cost increases in Prime memberships

This increasingly lukewarm sentiment toward a historically ground-breaking sale shows that consumers want more than a deal day – they want a company to advocate for lower costs all around. An interesting comparative brand is Costco, whose CEO recently stood his ground on keeping the hot dog + soda meal at $1.50. While humorous, this points to a greater trend: Advocating for stagnant prices is advocating for the consumers, and consumers are bound to take notice.

Lierin Melvin

Lierin Melvin

Lierin Melvin is the Director of Insights at Comperemedia, overseeing content, client engagements, and insights for Financial Services, Telecom, and Insurance. Lierin uses her nine years of experience in omnichannel marketing to provide recommendations and industry insights for how to effectively manage full-funnel marketing campaigns.