There really is a Christmas in July—for Amazon, at least. Tuesday’s Prime Day bonanza was the global sales monolith’s “biggest day ever,” beating out last year’s event and reinforcing it as a de facto new shopping holiday. The company said sales soared 60% over 2016’s event, and even beat out Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Limited to its Prime members, Amazon sold 2 million toys, 1 million pairs of shoes, and 90,000 televisions. This year’s top sellers included the Echo Dot, Instant Pot pressure cooker, and a 23andMe DNA test.
And to think, it all started on a whim. The first Prime Day was held in 2015, when the company was looking for a way to celebrate its 20th Anniversary. For its 10th Anniversary, Amazon held a concert with Bob Dylan and Norah Jones at its campus that was broadcast out to the world. That was great and all, but for its 20th, it was looking to do something much bigger.
“We said, well, we don’t really want to celebrate a birthday for us, we want to celebrate a birthday for our customers,” Doug Greeley, vice president of Amazon Prime, told Fast Company in November.
He says that when they started brainstorming ways to do something special for Prime members, a day of deals seemed like a natural fit. The company didn’t start planning the day until well into the beginning of 2015, in part because it wasn’t completely convinced that a “Prime Day” sale should coincide with its July birthday.
“Once we saw how big it was, I have to admit, many of us were surprised,” Greeley says. The day turned into a global event, with people logging on around the world. The success prompted Amazon to not only hold the event the following year, but to move up its planning for the next Prime Day to the very next day.
It also got its own small, dedicated team. The team decides what type of deals it wants to have, how they’ll be presented, and thinks about how they’re going to scale the day going forward.
Judging by the hype around this year’s event, it’s an event that’s only going to get bigger. More new members joined Prime yesterday “than on any single day in Amazon history,” the company said. Amazon didn’t provide hard numbers in terms of dollars, but the surge in Echo Dot sales bodes well for it.
“Prime members bought seven times more Amazon Echo devices globally than on Prime Day 2016,” the company says, making it the “best-selling product from any manufacturer in any category across Amazon globally.”
The Echo Dot is a speaker that uses Amazon’s proprietary Alexa voice assistant. One of its primary functions: getting members to buy more stuff.