Ahead of Amazon Black Friday 2020, it's worth a little refresher of how the retailer's Lightning Deals work. These are Amazon's limited time discounts on products – they tend to run for four hours or longer, and when the allocated stock is gone, the product is marked as sold out (though you'll see an option to 'Join waitlist' when all stock is gone).
It's a good way to pick up tech products and other gifts at a discount, then, but there are a few drawbacks to the whole thing. Amazon is pretty good at surfacing key products in its Lightning Deals, but there are so many deals running simultaneously that you have to dig a fair bit deeper to see the full range of what's been discounted.
During this past Prime Day, we covered the Lightning Deals in a live blog on the day, and we learned a lot from that experience. Below, we're passing on a few of those lessons in a quick explainer on Amazon Lightning Deals, so you're prepped for any big sales we see during Black Friday 2020.
1. Be discerning – and wary of crap
During Prime Day, we saw that not every Lightning Deal was a winner. In fact, loads and loads were not. In many ways, Lightning Deals are just peak capitalism in terms of supply and demand – supply is only limited because someone decided it should be. The ticking bar of stock is designed to incentivize you to buy so you don't miss out, meaning it's easy to make purchases you don't actually want.
To take gaming as an example, we notice that a lot of brands we're unfamiliar with have discounts on peripherals like mice and headsets in Lightning Deals. While we'll sometimes see some of our preferred manufacturers in there – Razer had a great deal on its Black Widow Elite keyboard during Prime Day, knocking $80 off the price in the US – we'll see plenty more brands we've never heard of or tested being marked as discounted.
We see lots of products we can't vouch for, basically, which is why it's important to be discerning. Shopping cheap isn't always the way to get what you want.
2. Look at what other people are buying
This is a really easy and obvious way to assess what people are snapping up during a Lightning Deal, but pay attention to the ticking stock bars. This will be most useful when you're looking at the featured products on the Lightning Deals homepage, or if you're just looking at a specific category – that's an easy at-a-glance way to see what people are interested in.
Lighting Deals usually last for four hours or more – comparing the time remaining (which you'll see on the product page of any product you click on) to the stock left is a good at-a-glance barometer of how 'hot' it really is.
New deals are likely to release every few minutes during Black Friday 2020, based on how quickly they rolled out during Prime Day. To see all of them will be nearly impossible – but on the day, checking back every 15 minutes should be frequent enough to ensure you catch the best bargains.
3. Browse by individual product area and Price: High to Low
Browsing Amazon's Lightning Deals with just a single product area ticked is the way to go in terms of navigation. If you try and browse everything at once, it's tough to get visibility on the best products in each area – an at-a-glance look at the Lightning Deals page will give you a sense of what Amazon is featuring in the sale, which is useful for finding the biggest items quickly across all areas, but anything more specific requires more effort.
While you're browsing the Lightning Deals for each product area, we'd also recommend sorting the page by Price: High to Low. That way, you'll quickly get a look at what the real big-ticket and high-end items are, which is particularly handy when you're looking at TVs, for example, where the higher-specified 4K TVs always cost more money.
4. Price compare what you're buying
During Black Friday and other sales periods, you'll see a lot of retailers price match each other with major products. A good way to see if your Amazon deal is actually a deal is to see what the same product costs at major retailers like Best Buy and Walmart in the US, or Currys and Argos in the UK. This is simple advice, but being armed with more information just results in better decision-making.
5. Some product areas might surprise you
Sometimes, you might find something you didn't know you were looking for in the Lightning Deals, which is why it's worth browsing less obvious product areas you're interested in one-by-one on Black Friday. A couple of our favorite deals from Prime Day this year were on graphic novels like The Boys and Batman: Hush, as well as the movies Parasite and Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw on Blu-ray for just under $8 each. We didn't necessarily know we wanted these products until we saw them in their respective categories.
Lightning Deals are a perfect way to make some fun impulse purchases – you just need a bit of patience to actually find the right products. That's certain to apply on Black Friday 2020, too.
6. Amazon is always running Lightning Deals – not just on Black Friday
Seriously, the Lightning Deals never end. These things are always running – including right now, as you read this. Browse the current Amazon Lightning Deals here if you're in the US (opens in new tab), and here if you're in the UK (opens in new tab). And good luck finding what you want this Black Friday.