Amazon Prime Day Attracts Back-to-School Shoppers

A traditional shopping season is getting a boost from the digital retail event

This July will mark the fourth annual Amazon Prime Day, hardly a deep-seated tradition, even though the online shopping event grows in popularity every year. In 2017, sales reached an estimated $1 billion.

Prime Day is also starting to capture dollars spent historically during a more established shopping season: back-to-school. 

Back-to-school shopping doesn't play as outsize a role in retailers' annual sales as the Q4 holiday season, but it's no small thing. We forecast that US retail ecommerce back-to-school sales will increase 15.4% in 2018 to $85.55 billion, representing 16.3% of full-year retail ecommerce sales. 

RetailMeNot recently surveyed US internet users who are parents of school-aged children about Amazon Prime Day. It found that 91% of respondents who plan to shop on Amazon Prime Day said they would make a back-to-school purchase. Roughly one-third planned to buy up to 25% of back-to-school products during the event, while the same number expected to buy up to half. Shoppers estimated they would spend an average of $167 on Prime Day, of which $70 would go to back-to-school items.

Amazon Prime Day is also starting to seep into other retailers’ marketing efforts since most are eager to boost sales with limited-time offers during the slow summer months. According to RetailMeNot, the number of retailers offering deals on its platform increased from 27 in 2016 to 119 last year. Additionally, 60% are planning on targeting consumers with offers in advance of Prime Day, while 54% will run deals to coincide with the event. 

Not everyone is in agreement as to when the back-to-school season starts, though. According to RetailMeNot, 84% of US retailers think it begins before or on Amazon Prime Day. And a study by Cardlytics found that even though 73% of back-to-school shoppers bought school times only in-store last year, Prime Day had the effect of shifting shoppers' spend up by nearly one month. In a 2017 AYTM Market Research survey, 42.6% of US internet users said they planned to start back-to-school shopping by the end of July.

The bigger mystery might be when Amazon is actually going to hold Prime Day this year. Based on past years, speculation was it was going to take place around July 11, though last week Techradar spotted a possible leak that announced Prime Day was starting midday on July 16 and would last a day and a half. 

For a deeper dive into Amazon Prime Day, keep an eye out for eMarketer's upcoming report, "Amazon Prime Day 2018: How a One-Day Promotion Changed the Back-to-School Season, and What Marketers Can Do Around This New Shopping Holiday," publishing July 2.