Amazon’s Prime Day 2019 is right around the corner. This year Amazon will launch its made-up holiday over 48 hours on July 15 and 16. While the event in and of itself is noteworthy, especially when one considers all that Amazon has planned for the festivities this year, like live-streaming tie-ins with Twitch and Taylor Swift concerts, the real headline story is what Prime Day could mean not next week but years down the road.
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos is fond of remarking how Amazon always thinks three years out in front of its competition. He even went so far as to say in an interview for the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. that the next three years financially at Amazon are already “baked.”
All of which is scary, really freaking scary.
This is now Year 4 for Prime Day. If Bezos is true to his word and the next three incarnations of Prime Day are indeed already “baked,” then the ramifications of this inconvenient truth for Amazon’s retail competition could soon be startling.
While the retail industry continues to take a wait-and-see approach with Amazon and its Prime Day efforts, what any retailer should be trying to figure out in the face of this new reality is what Amazon’s next move may then be. Retailers, from eBay to Target, can copycat Prime Day next week all they want and until the cows come home, but none of the activity matters if they are not prepared for the possible next iterations of Prime Day.
Two potential moves on the horizon are well within reason and could make big waves if Amazon ever decides to pull the trigger on either one. They are:
1. A Preemptive Prime Day in November
Don’t look now but Amazon has been quietly learning how to hold a Prime Day with short notice, letting the public know of the scheduled date only two to three weeks ahead of time.
This timeline is important because it means Amazon has the wherewithal to coordinate a Prime Day-like event on any day of its choosing. Therefore, while creature-of-habit legacy retailers have their heads down and their entire operations focused on Black Friday preparations during the holidays, Amazon could leverage its expertise to sneak in and launch a bigger and badder Prime Day preemptively in November before any retailer even knows what hit it.
A preemptive Black Friday would mean that retailers would not be able to adjust their in-store payrolls in time to react to the threat, that Amazon could target even bigger promotions on key holiday sensitive items weeks in advance, and that Black Friday would be more aptly named Red Friday because that is the color that better represents the bloodbath that would ensue from rigid payrolls, backed-up inventory and footfall declines.
2. Prime Day Every Month
As Death Star devastating as the above points are though, they pale in comparison to another entirely all too realistic and possibly even more likely scenario: Prime Day every month.
Check the date on this year’s Prime Day — July 15. Notice anything of significance?
The 15th of the month is the same day people receive their paychecks.
So, what if, just what if, Prime Day becomes a regular occurrence on the 1st and the 15th of every month? Is it outside the realm of possibilities?
Not in the slightest. It may even be a foregone conclusion, for Amazon’s business model is predicated on a flywheel of low prices, convenience and selection. Amazon is the master of pushing the bounds of the value equation (equity over price) for its customers. For the price of a Prime Membership (currently $119 a year), Amazon is relentless in making sure that it overdelivers on the expectations its customers have of the value they can derive from their Prime memberships.
A Prime Day on the 1st and 15th of every month is therefore entirely within the ethos of Amazon’s core values and its day-to-day business practices, and the marketing handle works really well, too.
The divide between the rich and poor grows every day, with more and more people living paycheck to paycheck, so it is almost impossible to find fault with a company who says to America, “Invest with us, and we will help you to stretch your paycheck longer than ever before.”
Forget big stock-up trips to Walmart, Costco, etc. every month with paycheck in hand or even via a cash advance. Amazon could instead convince Americans to simply wait until Prime Day to make their purchases. With next-day delivery now in play, also thanks to Amazon, the immediate convenience of going to a store is no longer the moat it once was and thus there is little to nothing to stop this behavior from occurring if Amazon promotes it in the right way.
“Your margin is my opportunity,” Jeff Bezos reportedly once said, a claim that is hard to argue or with which to find fault, especially when the margin comes from not helping people to the fullest extent that Amazon can come payday and when the end result is millions of people being able to afford more products, at lower prices than ever before.
Sadly, this beachhead was also once the purview of Walmart and Walmart alone. Walmart was the trusted low-price leader for America, but now that position is gone and likely not even Walmart can reclaim it.
On the surface it would appear that Walmart would have the full arsenal of assets to take a crack at pulling something off at a similar size and scale as Prime Day every month, but look back at the timeline — Walmart is at least four years behind Amazon’s Prime Day experimentation.
While Walmart has been busy building temples to the false gods of technology like virtual reality retail, direct-to-fridge grocery delivery, bourgeois-concierge services for upper crust Manhattanites, and reportedly piling up e-commerce losses in the range of $1 billion per year, Amazon has kept its eye on the ball and focused on its core mission and value proposition of making everyone’s lives better, with unrelenting discipline. The ball is just too far down the field at this point.
Prime Day in November? Prime Day every month?
Call it crazy, but get ready because both could happen. And, when they do, look at the innovation not with disdain but with awe, for it will harken the arrival of a new retail world where the consumer wins far more than they do today.
The rest of the industry will have no one to blame but themselves.