Amazon Prime Day 2018: everything you need to know to get those epic deals

Amazon Prime Day 2018 is getting ever closer dear reader and we can't wait to share the best deals with you. We've just enjoyed a solid Memorial Day sales and bank holiday sales period in late May in the US and UK respectively, but our deal-hungry minds are fully focused on July for the hottest summer deals when Prime Day lands.

If you weren't aware, Prime Day is Amazon’s summertime version of Black Friday. It’s when thousands of products are sold at a discount, and in 2017 it was the biggest day in Amazon’s history: busier than Black Friday, busier than Cyber Monday, and busier than any Prime Day before. It’s no wonder that Amazon Boss Jeff Bezos is currently the richest man in the world  - he’s got all our money.

When is Amazon Prime Day?

What deals can we expect on Prime Day 2018?

Amazon will most certainly be leading with its own devices, especially Echo smart speakers. We're hoping for all-time low prices on the likes of the Echo Dot ($25 maybe?) and hopefully the Echo Spot (we'd love to see it drop to $80), which will be enjoying it's first Prime Day. The cheaper Kindles, Fire TV Sticks and Fire Tablets are bound to be in the mix too. A knock-on effect of the Echo devices getting a discount should see Google attempt to match the prices with its Google Home smart speaker range as we mentioned in our other article, Why Amazon Prime Day will also be the best time to get a Google Home Mini. The upcoming Amazon Fire TV Cube has just been announced in the US for $119.99 (UK release TBC) and although it looks like a fantastic piece of kit, especially if you have Amazon Prime, it's well worth hanging on for a discount if you want to avoid buyer's remorse because you've paid too much, as we discuss in our feature, Why we're waiting until Amazon Prime Day to buy the Fire TV Cube.

Console deals were in fine form last year, with the new Nintendo Switch getting some cracking deals, despite being almost impossible to get hold of elsewhere. So we're expecting some more great deals- hopefully $300/£250 with two or three top of the line games. Interest in the older PS4/Xbox One consoles is dying down a bit now as attention shifts towards the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. Microsoft would be wise to use Prime Day as a chance to unleash some better bundles for the X, which is still significantly more expensive than the PS4 Pro, especially here in the US where you'll rarely see a discounted Xbox One X bundle anywhere. That's why we've also written about waiting for an Xbox One X Prime Day deal instead of any modest discounts available sooner.

Philips Hue bulbs have been a traditional favourite during the sales in recent years, although Black Friday was a bit of a letdown in all honesty. We're keeping our fingers crossed Amazon Prime Day will turns things around so we can put even more colored lighting in our homes.

Cheap 4K TVs will be something to keep an eye out for on Prime Day as we saw some great deals last year. And with prices leading up to the soccer World Cup at the moment already being pretty damn good over on our US cheap TV page (we've covered UK cheap TV deals too) the discounts will have to be extra special to stand out.

That's just a small taste of what's to come though. Thousands of different items will be getting huge discounts and we'll be keenly digging through them all to bring you the best picks.

The Echo and Echo Dot were the most-bought items last Prime Day

What is Amazon Prime Day?

Amazon Prime Day is the retailer's big members-only summer sale and it's been a massive success in the few short years it's been going. If you want to get involved with the best discounts though, you'll need to be a member of Amazon Prime. With free next-day delivery on thousands of items and the excellent Amazon Instant Video streaming service being just two of the membership's key highlights, millions of you are already signed up.

Brilliantly though, you can always sign up for a free 30-day trial to take advantage of the sale and other membership benefits. And if you don't want to continue the service after Prime Day, just cancel the trial before the 30 days are up. Amazon know too well that many shoppers will find it hard to say goodbye to those super perks though.

More people signed up for Prime on Prime Day last year than on any other day in Amazon’s history. As of April 2018, Amazon confirmed it had passed 100 million subscribers for Amazon Prime, that's up from around 80 million before Prime Day last year and 58 million in 2016. That's some pretty incredible year-on-year growth for the last few years. We wouldn't be surprised to see Amazon Prime's 2018 numbers grow dramatically again by the time Prime Day arrives.

Amazon also reported that sales via the Amazon app more than doubled year-on-year and "tens of millions of people" used the app to buy items last Prime Day.

So is Amazon Prime Day just another Black Friday? Actually, no. As Amazon puts it, Black Friday is largely about gifts for other people (it's ok, we had a laugh at that too) – it takes place just at the start of the Christmas shopping season – but Prime Day is all about treating yourself.

The overwhelming majority of decent deals on Prime Day were on things you might buy for yourself or for your home. As you’ll see from the best sellers there were lots of smart home devices sold to Prime customers as well as quite a lot of kitchen gear. There were good deals on laptops and consoles too of course, but they were alongside deals on hammocks, juicers, robot vacuum cleaners and pressure cookers.

Amazon Prime Day 2018: how long will it last?

We know what you’re thinking: Amazon turned Black Friday into Black Friday Deals Week, so there’s no way it would limit Prime Day to just 24 hours. And you’d be right. Last year's Prime Day was 30 hours long starting at 9pm the night before and lasting until 3am the day after. We wouldn't be surprised to see Prime Day 2018 last even longer. Prime Day 2022 may well start before Prime Day 2021 finishes.

Prime Day: do Amazon's rivals respond?

They did. It was Free Slurpee Day at 7-Eleven and Cow Appreciation Day at Chick-fil-A, which offered free food to anybody in an animal costume. Meanwhile eBay threw some shade, with a front page claiming that “Their Prime Deal Is Our Everyday Deal”.

According to research firm Bazaarvoice, 76% of US Prime Day shoppers visited rival retailers to check whether they were getting the best deals. And as PwC Consumer Markets analyst Steve Barr told CNBC, “We are seeing other big box retailers use Prime Day as an opportunity to capture shoppers' appetite for deals and as way to compete against Amazon for share of wallet and mindset.” 

So we won't just be calling out the best Prime Day deals at Amazon, we'll keep an eye on all your favourite retailers to see what bargains they have. At the very least we expect some sneaky price matching from many stores like Walmart, Newegg and Jet in the US and UK favourites like Currys, Argos, John Lewis and AO.

So are Prime Day deals really real?

As with any sale, some products are end of line stock or things that just aren’t selling (like all those shoddy TVs idiots fight over in supermarkets on Black Friday), but many deals are genuine. Let’s take a look at the US bestseller, the Instant Pot DUO80 pressure cooker. On Prime Day it was $90, and if you check its price history on you’ll see that it was tracking at $129 for most of 2017. The camel site is pretty reliable and a great way to check how good a deal really is and it works in both the UK and US. It'll also show you how likely a price is to come back around again, meaning your spending budget might be better spent on something with a rarer discount on Prime Day itself.

There’s one big blip in the graph, though: on the 2nd of July it went up to $209.10, dropping back to $129 the following day. If you’re comparing the Prime Day price to the 2nd of July price then the saving is clearly illusory – but compare it to the normal selling price and it’s clearly still a good deal.

Checking other devices can be illuminating, though. Amazon’s Echo Dot is usually $49.99, but it dropped to $39.99 last June, May, December and on Black Friday. The Kindle Paperwhite price goes up and down more often than a kangaroo on a bouncy castle, moving from $119.99 to $99.99 every fortnight or so.

The lesson here, other than “don’t buy Amazon devices at full price”, is that you really need to know the value of what you’re looking at. Some deals, such as the pressure cooker, are genuine (and no doubt arranged with the supplier way in advance to trade margin for volume). Others aren’t necessarily deals you need to race to get, because the devices will be discounted again soon. And as with any sale, forget the RRP/MSRP when you’re looking at the sale price – especially on big ticket items such as televisions. The RRP on those only exists to give retailers a laugh.

Where there any Prime Day problems last year?

As you’d expect from an event this big, not everything went according to plan on Amazon Prime Day last year. Twitter featured many irate users who found that deals didn’t appear at the specified times, while others suggested that Amazon had a “bot problem” with some deals being oversubscribed instantly. Still, others had problems with the app, where deals weren’t sold out but the App’s Add To Cart button didn’t work. There were concerns over some of the deals too. Some deals were more expensive on Prime Day than they were normally, while other deals simply reproduced deals that had been available the day before. And still others were laughable: would an incredible four cents off the $1,799.99 price of a soundbar tempt you to buy? Problems didn’t end at the ordering stage either. While Amazon boasts about the fastest-ever UK Prime Day delivery of just 14 minutes between ordering and delivery, many of us saw our next-day or two-day deliveries become even longer.

Pro hint from us here at TechRadar: if any of your Amazon Prime delivery dates are longer than they should be, complain to Amazon and you might get something back. A free month of Prime added to your sub for example.

The Fire TV Stick was down to $34.99 / £34.99

Could Amazon do better?

We think so. One of the biggest problem with Prime Day was actually finding the deals, which involved wading through lots of irrelevant products: Amazon ordered its deals by categories, so for example you could choose Computers & Accessories but you couldn’t narrow the selection further to specific kinds of computers or accessories.

Finding interesting deals meant looking past an awful lot of Lightning cables. We're here to make things easier for you though as we'll provide a guide to the very best Amazon Prime Day deals, as it can be a right pain browsing the site if you're not used to navigating it every single day like we are. 

We were a bit disappointed to see deals we did want, such as Philips Hue bulbs, limited to single orders per customer. Presumably it’s to stop them ending up on eBay at a higher price, but Hue’s a system for smart homes, not a single smart lampshade.

The biggest problems were with availability and delivery, though. Amazon or its logistics partners appeared to underestimate demand, and while part of us thinks “fair enough”, the whole point of Prime is its fast delivery. And seeing Lightning Deals disappear before you had time to read them was particularly frustrating. Not everybody is accessing Amazon on a super-speedy broadband network, and logging into the mobile app at the right time to see the deal had already sold out was a particular torture for phone users.

What can we learn about Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

The short answer: not much. Prime Day may be a big deal, but it’s still small potatoes compared to the annual holiday extravaganza – and you can be sure that while many people still won’t have heard of Prime Day, they’re very familiar with Black Friday and maybe Cyber Monday too. Amazon isn’t going to let the Black Friday / Cyber Monday opportunity pass it by: Black Friday 2016 was the first billion-dollar shopping day for mobile payments, with a total of $3.34 billion sold in the US alone. Expect Amazon to be just as enthusiastic about Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2018 as it was for the last few years. Although truth be told, we reckon the Amazon device deals on Prime Day will be slightly better than Black Friday.

Last year tens of millions of Prime members made a purchase on Prime Day. That was a 50% increase year-on-year

What were the best Prime Day deals last year?

As ever, you can count on us to find the very best Amazon Prime Day deals. Last year's best Prime Day deals included the PS4, high quality headphones and Oral-B  toothbrushes. Other top deals included:

  • Amazon Devices: Echo speakers, Kindles, Fire TV Stick 
  • Pressure cooker: the Instant Pot Duo80 cooker was $40 off 
  • Philips Hue: smart bulbs were 50% off in US and UK 
  • LG OLED TV: $700 savings on 65-inch LG OLED TVs in the US 
  • Microsoft Surface Pro 4: Prices down to £479.99 in the UK 
  • Philips Fidelio L1: £180 off these headphones 
  • PlayStation Plus: 15 months for £29.99 in the UK 

Amazon's warehouse workers had a huge task ahead of them last year with an incredible number of items needing to be shipped for next day delivery via Amazon Prime.

  • Amazon Prime Day sales last year:
  • 3.5 million toys
  • 50,000 TP-Link smart plugs
  • 200,000 dresses
  • 300,000 lightbulbs
  • 100,000 Amazon Launchpad items
  • 45,000 pairs of headphones
  • 32,000 electric toothbrushes
  • 52,000 kitchen items
  • 37,000 power tools

weird amazon prime day deals

What were the weirdest deals last year?

Where do we start? There was 40% off cream made from sheep placentas, 27% off Yeti Garden Statues, 40% off a Viking-style drinking horn and 20% off a hot dog toaster. We didn’t even know hot dog toasters existed. You could get 14 dollars off a 12-pack of Perky Jerky Turkey, 20% off a Beard Bib and 56% off glasses that apparently make your eyes think you’re on magic mushrooms. There's always a deal on a massive box of cat food pouches too. Always.

Prime Day 2018: any other days we should be paying attention to?

Have you heard of Singles’ Day? If you aren’t Chinese, you might not have: Singles’ Day, aka Guanggun Jie and recently rebranded 11/11, is the world’s largest online sale. Singles’ Day 2016, which fell on 11 November, saw sales of $17.8 billion for Tmall, operated by ecommerce giant Alibaba. That’s more than the entire annual ecommerce revenues of Brazil. Not bad for an event that only debuted in 2009.

There are lots of interesting things about Singles’ Day, not least the fact that in 2016 some 82.2% of sales were via mobile devices. Even more significantly, 75% of customers were under 35 – and that means we should be looking at how they’re deciding to buy, because it might just be the future of retail.

If you thought Amazon made a fuss about Prime Day, Alibaba’s efforts will amaze you. It live-streamed an eight hour fashion show featuring the world’s biggest brands and encouraging viewers to pre-order what they saw on the catwalk; Alibaba executive vice-chairman Joe Tsai says that “live streaming is the biggest internet trend in China today”, and most brands do some form of live streaming involving celebrities or stories.

There was an augmented reality game where players could earn prizes and discounts; and most significantly of all, there was a Superbowl-scale countdown featuring Katy Perry, Kobe Bryant and One Republic, live streamed to China as well as Taiwan and Hong Kong, two important new markets. The next step is to take 11/11 truly global. So in some regards, Amazon needs to up its game. 

Prime Day on Twitter:

As you can probably imagine, the reaction to Amazon Prime Day on Twitter featured snark and moaning in roughly equal measures. Jeff Grub encouraged everyone to consider the true meaning of Prime Day, Marky Bummers mourned what we’ve lost, and Mila expressed herself through the medium of Muppets. Reverend Scott marvelled at Amazon’s marketing, Christine Hennessey spotted the significance of it all and Jacqueline Herrera stressed the importance of reading the reviews.

Come back to TechRadar on Amazon Prime Day 2018 where we'll once again be listing the best deals so you don't have to suffer the pain of navigating the Amazon website! 

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