This year’s Prime Day event was Amazon’s sixth.  For the first five years, these were mid-July events, and their huge visibility and success had —despite occasional logistics hiccups –— earned them reliably huge blockbuster status within the retail promotional iconography.   This year’s pandemic-related disruptions deferred Prime Day until October 13th and 14th, but these disruptions didn’t dilute the event’s visibility or impact, either to Amazon or to its competitors.

As in past years, we’ve taken a look at how Amazon deployed email to support Prime Day.   The data reported below reflect Prime Day-themed emails for the Prime Day run-up, and then during the two-day event itself.

  • Amazon’s initial Prime Day emails deployed on September 28th, fifteen days ahead of the event’s official start-date. The number of campaigns deployed per day ranged from seven (on 9/28), to 29 (on 10/11).

  • The initial Prime Day campaigns on 9/28 reflected almost 44 million emails, but daily sends tapered off to about 6 million on 10/7, before rising to 83 million on 10/13, and then to 97 million on 10/14.
  • But contact management is judicious: even the most loyal of Amazon Prime members would likely have received no more than about eight related touches during the entire period.

  • Amazon’s usual read rate strength is in evidence here, ranging from 21% (on 10/8), up to 44% (on 10/3). For the first ten days of Amazon’s Prime Day mailings, read rates averaged 39%, versus 27%, for the last seven days, and 33% for the entire period.


Prime Day emails in relation to other Amazon activity? Despite its visibility, Prime Day email reflected only 4% of Amazon’s total email campaign flow during the analyzed period, and 16% of its total deployed emails.  Amazon’s average read rates for the non-Prime Day activity were 32%, versus the 33% we report for Prime Day emails.

Inbox performance?  Amazon’s overall sophistication in email best practice, and consequent high email subscriber engagement, drove very strong deliverability.  Their Prime Day emails show an inbox rate of 98%, versus 94% for their other period emails.

And what of the competition? 

Prime Day poses an almost impossible challenge for even Amazon’s largest competitors, because Amazon has all the leverage, in terms of timing, audience and messaging.

  • Major retail promotional event planning requires far more lead time than Amazon provides with their cagey official event communications. Nevertheless, key competitors were able to mount a variety of countervailing events during the Prime Day run-up, and during the Prime Day event itself.
  • Still, as seen in the table below, Amazon’s overall email audience footprint — and even just its U.S. Prime membership, itself estimated at 112 million — far exceeds the overall email footprints of their largest retail competitors.

  • What this shows is what we always see of Prime Day and competitive response:  Amazon covers the market with a much larger audience, many more mailings, higher overall circulation, and they drive much higher period read rates.  Also, Amazon’s average mailing quantities are small compared to these other senders, reflecting Amazon’s usual practice of curating content to highly targeted audiences. The results speak for themselves.


Notable Email Examples

The table below shows five of Amazon’s best period performers.  They’re all aggressively promotional.  Several also contain explicit product references.  Three of the five examples offer “early” deals or event access.

This next table shows examples of campaigns supporting key competitors’ countervailing events.   All deployed during the Prime Day run-up or event period.  All are promotional, but few contain product specificity.

And the future?   Industry observers are curious to see if/how Amazon’s deferral of Prime Day so deep into the Fall season will affect how they manage the classic Holiday gateway events of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which arrive in less than six weeks.  We’ll be examining that issue as those events unfold.

~ John