Retailers run Prime Day 'me too' sales
Several retailers — including Newegg, eBay, Toys R Us and the 1-800-Flowers family — have prepped exclusive discounts and perks for, on or around Prime Day. Macy’s is touting a summertime “Black Friday” sale, J.C. Penney is reprising “Penney Palooza,” and Kohl’s and Best Buy are also offering competing deals.
For eBay, that includes a new price-matching scheme announced last month, guaranteeing that more than 50,000 deals will be the best price online, even on Prime Day, the marketplace told Retail Dive in an email. That includes an offer of an exclusive Google Home/Chromecast bundle, pairing the Google Home Personal Assistant and Google Chromecast devices at a steep discount — an answer to Amazon’s Prime Day deals on the Echo and Fire devices.
As consumers comparison shop, and as competitors tout their membership-free shopping events, Prime Day has the potential of morphing into a mid-summer holiday with a Black Friday feel not exclusive to Amazon. But the focus on such mid-summer price competition may be misplaced, experts say.
Amazon’s rivals are being quite unabashed about their Prime Day competition. "You might be asking – ‘Is this a response to Amazon’s Prime Day?'" Toys ‘R’ Us wrote in a press release emailed to Retail Dive. "Take it as you want, but let’s just say we at Toys ‘R’ Us believe a deal as good as this one is worth sharing with everyone – no memberships required."
But that doesn’t mean a good number of merchants aren't being cagey about competing sales, according to Phil Dengler of BestBlackFriday.com, a blog that tracks deals for consumers interested in finding the lowest price.
"Retailers are being very secretive about their Prime Day competing sales, but we have confirmed that multiple stores will be having them, including Newegg and eBay,” Dengler said in an email to Retail Dive. “We will be doing price comparisons on these sales, and we expect them to be pretty good again. While everyone is focusing on Prime Day, we think it is a huge mistake to ignore what the other large stores will be selling. And the best news is none of these retailers require memberships to shop their sales, so it is easier for those without a Prime membership."
While Amazon is likely to be the biggest retail vacuum on Prime Day (considering its huge assortment and the fact that the red-letter event is the e-commerce giant’s own invention), competitors, through price-matching and possibly deeper discounts, will be keeping the company on its toes. And while Amazon is likely to collect a huge number of Prime Day signups, many of those may be free trials that shoppers will let expire — unless they’re ultimately kept in by Amazon’s trove of Prime membership perks.
"Last year in an attempt to go head to head with Amazon Prime Day’s impact and join in the discount frenzy, major retailers joined the game by offering promotions of their own and thereby starting a new mid-summer communal promotional event," Amanda Nicholson, professor of retail practice at Syracuse University's Whitman School of Management, told Retail Dive in an email. "So is it worth signing up for Amazon Prime for this day? You can always sign up for a 30-day free trial before committing your $99."
Of course Prime starts off the day as a formidable membership program, now numbering 85 million U.S. members as of the second quarter ending June 30, a 35% increase in just one year, according to the latest estimate from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners emailed to Retail Dive.
While it may seem wise to rise to Amazon’s Prime Day challenge, however, that’s not where retailers should be putting their best energy, according to Rob Gonzalez, co-founder of product content management platform Salsify. Rather, it’s the customer experiences offered by the likes of Bonobos and Warby Parker that render Prime Day just another day on the calendar, he said. Otherwise, it’s a race to the bottom and all about price.
"In lieu of providing a competing holiday (or sale) to Amazon Prime Day, retailers should differentiate themselves and provide delightful experiences,” he told Retail Dive in an email. “Pick another dimension of customer experience besides price, quantity and convenience—and be the best at it.”
Follow Daphne Howland on Twitter