Now well-entrenched and highly anticipated, this year’s Prime Day event was Amazon’s seventh. Amazon’s more than 120 million Prime members guarantee the event’s high visibility and reach. Prime Day was a mid-July event for its first five years, but in 2020 the pandemic pushed it back to October. This year’s event resurfaced on June 21-22. Because Amazon doesn’t announce actual event dates until a few weeks prior to kickoff, competitors always struggle to mount responses that have comparable impact. 

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

Amazon’s initial Prime Day emails – those including actual event dates – deployed on June 3, almost three weeks ahead of the event’s official start-date. The number of campaigns deployed per day ranged from two (on June 4-5), to 82 (on June 21).

Amazon deployed relatively small total email volumes for the first two days of the run-up, saving its first big sends (>37 million total) for the third day. Smaller send days followed, interspersed with significant spikes on June 9, 14, and 17. The Prime Day period itself saw the largest volumes: 130 million and 137 million, respectively, on June 21-22.

Amazon’s emails typically produce industry-leading read rates. This year’s Prime Day emails maintained that standard, averaging about 28%, within a range of 17% (June 9) and 38% (June 13). Even on the last two days – with the largest sends – read rates averaged 25%.

Prime Day emails in relation to other Amazon activity 

Despite its visibility, Prime Day email reflected only 10% of Amazon’s total email campaign flow during the analyzed period, and 30% of its total deployed emails. This was considerably larger than last year’s Prime Day email share, when the comparable ratios were 4% and 16%. Amazon’s average read rates for the non-Prime Day activity were 32%, versus the 28% 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 97%, even with their total inbox rate for the comparable period.

And what of the competition?

Prime Day creates an almost insurmountable challenge for even Amazon’s largest competitors, because Amazon has all the leverage with control of timing, audience, and messaging. 

  • Major retail promotional event planning requires far more lead time than Amazon provides when they hold off announcing the event’s dates until less than a month before the event. Nevertheless, key competitors manage to mount a variety of opposing events, especially just before 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 – far exceeds the overall email footprints of their largest retail competitors, and their communication investment is far less.
  • This reflects the competitive response to Prime Day: Amazon controls the market with a vastly larger audience, event recognition, value perception, many more mailings, and higher overall circulation. The results speak for themselves: Amazon’s read rates outperform its next strongest competitor’s by eight percentage points.

    Notable email examples

    The table below shows six of either Amazon’s best period performers or its largest event sends. Four of the six examples reference “deals.” Four deployed before the event itself; one of those more than two weeks before. Two reference “sneak peek” or “early.” Only one has a product category focus.

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

    So, all in all, I think it’s safe to say that Prime Day 2021 was a success – at least from an email standpoint. 

    All data is courtesy of Competitor Tracker

    ~John Landsman

    Manager, Research Analytics