Here are the marketing strategies retailers are using to compete with Amazon Prime Day

  •   January 4, 2020

Since launching in 2015, Amazon’s Prime Day sale has claimed its place as an industry-wide shopping holiday, with the event alone generating record-breaking revenues year-over-year –  eclipsing even Black Friday.

This year, the 48-hour Prime Day mega-sale kicks off Monday, July 15 and is shaping up to drive the biggest online shopping event yet.

The e-commerce goliath may have been the frontrunner of “Christmas in July,” but big-box retail rivals have accordingly followed suit. Contenders like Walmart, Best Buy, Target and other retail giants have historically taken to sharing in the cyber frenzy, launching competing online sales in tandem with Amazon’s event to earn a slice of revenue from the cyber sensation.

The Prime Day phenomenon has transformed the days during and surrounding the event into a profitable sales window for retailers in nearly every market. During last year’s Prime Day, brands outside of Amazon ran cutthroat promotions, including Target touting a year of free same-day delivery with a purchase minimum, eBay suspending its membership paywall for a 36-hour period, Walmart peddling sales lower than Black Friday, and Best Buy offering loss-leader sales on electronics – just to name a few.

According to a Prime Day survey by Adlucent, 68% of respondents planning to shop on Prime Day said they will also be looking outside of Amazon to comparison shop, leaving ample room for other retailers to take advantage of the holiday. Last year, Walmart was the biggest competitor, claiming around 50% of sales outside the Amazon marketplace, Adlucent reported. Target and Best Buy revenues weren’t far behind, claiming 33% and 32%, respectively.

So what are retailers doing to keep pace with Amazon’s sales? We’ve compiled some of the key strategies that marketers should be considering during massive retail surges like Prime Day, Black Friday and beyond.

Driving awareness with content and search

Clear, impactful messaging and high-quality content is a critical component for online retailers going head-to-head with Amazon. Retailers outside of Amazon rely on promotional pricing and optimized product page listings to support messaging that in line with the brand’s value. Descriptive product page copy, high-quality product imagery, and mobile responsiveness are among the key drivers for conversion lifts.

Descriptive product page copy, high-quality product imagery, and mobile responsiveness are among the key drivers for conversion lifts.

“A competitive, design thinking driven UX and UI can lead to more shopper engagement. Historically, we have seen that site visitors who interact with navigation/facets convert at a higher rate, buy more, and come back more often,” said Roland Gossage, CEO of GroupBy Inc.  “A competitive combination of product data enrichment, recommendations, and intuitive navigations can result in more conversions, higher order values, higher revenue per visit, and more returning customers.”

The quality of email content surrounding the shopping holiday has also proven to play a key role in Prime Day sales lift for other online retailers. During last year’s Prime event, brands that used “Prime Day” in email subject lines saw an enormous lift in open rates – 47% higher than the average of other holiday-themed promotional campaigns, according to research from Yes Marketing. Email retargeting and planned segmentation strategies were also among the tactics used by big-box retailers during last year’s Prime frenzy, teasing with content directed at the most engaged consumers.

Brooke Willcox, director of digital business development at MNI Digital Media, said that a strong competitive marketing strategy for retailers on Prime Day “should start with a strong SEM campaign, with strategic keyword selection. Since users will be searching for deals, it’s vital that the brand/landing page pops up first.”

While bidding on PPC keywords for Prime Day is an expensive tactic for small businesses, major e-commerce brands have shown to invest heavily hot-ticket keywords to warrant top of the page results. Smaller businesses can still ride the search wave with organic SEO, ensuring product pages are optimized, promotional messaging is well-defined, and high-traffic keywords are baked into titles and rich content.

Delivering on competitive shipping promises

Amazon Prime’s free one-day and two-day shipping has rapidly become the default expectation for many shoppers. Data from digital services and solutions firm Avionos suggests that Amazon’s shipping offerings are a major driver for consumers. When a product’s price point is bolstered by its quality, nearly half (49%) of online shoppers choose to purchase via Amazon instead of directly buying from other brands and retailers because of delivery efficiency.

But for online retailers competing with Amazon’s market share, a prompt delivery may not always be the determining factor for consumers, as, say transparency about when orders will be delivered.

In Walker Sands “Future of Retail” report, consumers said that faster shipping will make them more likely to shop online – but the true driving force is largely the convenience of door-to-door delivery. Of the surveyed consumers who purchased products online in the past year, 61% reported using standard shipping, while 42% went with two-day delivery.

Of all shipping promises, 77% of consumers surveyed in the report ranked free shipping as the most important option for online purchasing decisions. Still, the majority of consumers show a preference for reliable delivery, with high expectations that retailers will deliver products when they promise to.

Embracing retention through brand loyalty

Dedicated loyalty programs are a lynchpin for online retailers coasting on the Prime Day shopping mentality. Premium loyalty incentives – like tiered, paid, or value-based programs – have been shown to drive higher engagement and sustainable return customer behavior.

A recent study by Clarus Commerce indicated that nearly 86% of consumers who were satisfied with a brand’s paid loyalty program were likely to choose that retailer over a competitor offering a lower price for future purchases.

Retail rivals have been able to capitalize on the Prime Day mentality around impulse purchases and saturated shopping behavior by creating meaningful connections with customers after the sales are over. Personalized offerings, exclusive benefits, and content that goes beyond the discount signals value for customers who engage with Amazon competitors during Prime Day, laying a solid foundation for brand loyalty.

Fine-tuning sales operations and martech

With more than 29% more retailers expected to play in this year’s Prime Day arena, airtight sales operations and strong e-commerce technology are factors in delivering a positive customer experience and supporting promotional efforts.

Hazelcast CEO Kelly Herrell pointed out that mega-sale events like Prime Day “not only create new consumer demands, but also daunting technical challenges for retailers vying to keep up with the onslaught of buyers and transaction volumes.”

With Amazon alone selling more than 100 million products during last year’s Prime Day (equating to more than 1,150 transactions every second), retailers face the pressure to ensure that all technology touchpoints are optimized to withstand high-volume traffic while still delivering key funnel metrics.

“In this new climate, mere microseconds matter as even fleeting blips or delays can mean thousands lost in failed transactions – and unhappy consumers missing out on their desired purchase. Retailers who don’t build the right systems to support this type of split-second processing simply won’t survive the Prime-pocalypse,” Herrell said.