One is an orgy of consumerism that encourages us to ignore the collapse of civilisation as we know it so we can buy stuff we don’t need. The other is an orgy of consumerism… well, on the face of it, there isn’t much to choose between Black Friday and the Prime Day deals other than the fact that the former happens in November and the latter in July.
But there are some pretty significant differences, so if you’re unsure which particular sales frenzy to save for, then we’re here to help.
What exactly is Prime Day anyway?
Prime Day is an annual sales promotion that Amazon runs every July. The first one was in 2015. As the name suggests, it’s about Amazon’s Prime membership service: to take part in the sales, you need to be a Prime member. If you’re not already a member you can sign up for a free trial, and Amazon clearly expects a lot of people to sign up and to remain as members.
Oh, and it’s not really a day. The first one was, but Prime Day 2018 was a day and a half. It’ll no doubt get longer, and sometimes some of its deals are announced early.
For example in 2017 Amazon did the usual discounting of its own-brand smart home speakers, but it did so in advance of Prime Day to raise awareness of the event.
What’s the difference between Prime Day and Black Friday on Amazon?
The main difference is the targeting. Because Black Friday happens at the end of November, the focus is on holiday shopping: we tend to look for bargains that we can buy as presents for other people. But in July, we tend to be thinking about ourselves – and as a result the emphasis on Prime Day is very much personal shopping. Think kitchen gadgets and smart home speakers, fitness trackers and high-end headphones.
There’s still the usual collection of madness that you’ll find on any Amazon sales event, but there’s a very definite difference in the focus of Prime Day. The big sellers on Prime Day 2018 were smart home devices such as smart plugs, smart lights and smart speakers. In 2018 we found the best Prime Day deals were on Amazon devices and coffee machines, smart thermostats and home security, smart TVs and Chromebooks. If history repeats, which it tends to do, we expect the best Black Friday deals to be on TVs and laptops, gaming bundles and camera kit, smartphones and electric guitars.
The list of best-sellers from Prime Day 2020 demonstrates the difference really well. Amazon shifted a third of a million Instant Pot electric pressure cookers, and its two worldwide best-sellers were Fire TV sticks and Echo Dots. It sold Jamie Oliver saucepans in Luxembourg and Coke Zero in Singapore, digital ear thermometers in China and Finish dishwasher tablets in the UK.
Those are all perfectly decent and useful products, of course, but if you’re buying them as presents for your partner you might well end up with those dishwasher tablets in a place where even Amazon Prime can’t deliver.
How do Prime Day and Black Friday deals work?
They’re pretty much identical. Some deals run throughout the promotion period, so for example either sales event is a really good time to buy something like an Amazon Echo: they’re discounted throughout.
But, others are time-limited “lightning deals”, which are only available while stocks last. Prime members can see exactly when the deals will begin so they can plan accordingly.
Amazon tends to stagger some of its bigger deals, so for example it’ll announce one block of deals early on Prime Day and then announce a different block later on. It does the same during the Black Friday deals period, with different deals being announced throughout.
Why does Amazon do Prime Day instead of just Black Friday?
Because Black Friday has got awfully busy. Chances are your local shop does a Black Friday deals week now: it’s become such a part of the retail calendar with so many retailers taking part that it’s really hard for anybody to stand out.
By creating its very own Black Friday in the form of Prime Day, Amazon can have the day to itself – or at least, it can for a little while. In 2018 we found a number of big-name retailers offered their own special sales events that just happened to coincide with Amazon’s.
Prime Day has been an enormous success for Amazon. According to Hitwise, Amazon's UK website had 89 million visitors on Prime Day. That’s over 10% more than in 2017, with more than 1 in 20 of every UK web visits landing on Amazon. It was the first Prime Day in Australia, in Singapore, in The Netherlands and in Luxembourg, and it was the biggest ever day for Echo devices, Fire tablets, Fire TV and Kindles.
Amazon still does Black Friday. But with Prime Day also in the arsenal, it gets not one but two bites of the consumer spending cake.
Are the deals real?
According to consumer group Which? not everything that seems to be a bargain on Prime Day is a bargain: some items’ prices were lower earlier in the year or increased just in time for them to be cut for Prime Day. That happens on Black Friday too, and it’s not just an Amazon thing.
It’s a retailer thing in much the same way that your favourite wine always seems to go up in price just before the Christmas discounting starts. You can ensure you’re actually getting a bargain by checking other retailers’ prices with PriceSpy, or better still tracking the Amazon price history on CamelCamelCamel.
And of course, there just happens to be a really good website with a great record of finding the best Amazon Prime Day Deals and the best Amazon Black Friday Deals, not to mention the best Amazon Cyber Monday deals. Thankfully, you're on it. So, make sure you check back here during both Black Friday and next year's Amazon Prime day, as we'll be highlighting the very best deals.
- Black Friday laptop deals: how to get the best model for the best price
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Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.