The real reason Amazon invented Prime Day

You can't escape the FOMO
Image: Lance Ulanoff/Mashable

Its almost Amazon Prime Day. Think of it like Black Friday on a Tuesday in the middle of summer or Christmas in July if youre capable of planning your holiday shopping that far in advance.

Its also another piece in Amazons strategy to become the Buy n Large of our times.

Over the past three years, Amazon has effectively built its eponymous day into a new shopping holiday, one that generates impressive amounts of FOMO if youre not able to participate.

The golden ticket is, of course, a $99 Amazon Prime account. Its the rapidly spinning wheel at the center of Amazons growing spokes of services and benefits that include free two-day shipping, streaming video and music, free content storage and access to All. Those. Deals.

Ive been a Prime member for years, but have some complicated feelings about Amazon and Prime Day. The company is driving inexorable change across the entire retail experience. Amazon is now a home page for many people. The first stop for any thought that could lead to a purchase. Its hardware has made Amazon inescapable with Alexa always waiting, listening for a new request. Amazon is seeking a level of shopping homogeny that sometimes gives me pause.

Prime Day is also, obviously, an invention, something like the invented holidays that force us to remember family members one day a year as opposed to year-round. We know we should be better than this, yet we cant ignore the forced-cheer and magnetic pull of a designated day especially when they dangle the promise of spectacular deals in front of your face.

Like everyone else, I get sucked in and, on the Prime Day, start poring over all the deals. It is the browsing act that I find most satisfying since, if were being honest here, many of the deals are for off-brand products (you wont find Apple in there) or gear, gadgets and doo-dads well never use and really dont need.

Like everyone else, I get sucked in and, on the Prime Day, start poring over all the deals.

Some of the best deals are, unsurprisingly, reserved for Amazons own collection of services (Unlimited Music Streaming) and hardware: the Alexa-hosting Echos, Fire Tablets and Kindle eReaders. But, if youre already a Prime Member, you probably already own one or more of these devices (I have at least one of each).

So, if so many people will browse and not buy, why have such a day?

Even if only a small percentage of people shopping Amazon Prime Day deals find exactly whey theyre looking for, it doesnt matter to Amazon.

The goal of the day is not massive product sales, though Im sure Amazon wont mind that happening.

During a recent MashTalk Podcast recording, Mashable Business Reporter Emma Hinchcliffe posited that the goal is simply more Prime Members and I found myself in wild agreement.

Yes, Amazon will make serious bank if it sells millions of items on its special day, but nothing is more valuable to a business than annuities, fixed, recurring payments that can be relied on a monthly or yearly basis.

Once you sign up with Amazon Prime at $99, its doubtful you will ever end that subscription, and thats not because you join and forget about it. In my house, Amazon Prime isnt important one day of the year, its a service we access weekly and sometimes daily. Sometimes its something as simple as streaming music for free through my Amazon Echo. Other times, its getting a much-needed school book in my daughters hands within 48 hours. It might be one-button access via Amazon Dash to toothpaste or toilet paper.

And Amazon Prime holds the potential of becoming even more useful in the coming months as Amazon concludes its Whole Foods acquisition and radically alters its distribution model. Everyone thinks that the next big wave of delivery technology from Amazon is going to be drones, but thats just a shiny sideshow. The real story is what all those giant food stores, physical locations with lots of floor space, will do to Prime delivery. Will it become 1-day or even hours delivery? Thats possible if Prime Membership adds a pick-up-yourself service, using a portion of Whole Foods to stock often-purchased items, including Amazon hardware.

Amazon doesnt share its Prime subscriber numbers, but one recent estimate put it at 80 million. Thats a strong number, but leaves more than two thirds of the U.S. population on the table (Amazon Prime and Prime Day are global operations, too. Just imagine the global Prime Membership opportunity). People who are probably already watching the wall-to-wall coverage of this invested day and wondering, How do I get in on that?

Last year, Amazon Prime day added, according to estimates, half a billion dollars to Amazons revenue. With Amazons aggressive marketing push and all the attention media (yes, including Mashable) is paying, this year will be even bigger. But the hidden impact will be the million or more new Amazon Prime customers all lining up to buy everything from shoes and TVs to computers and cookies not just one day a year, but every day and, very likely, forever.

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