How Amazon Prime Day came to be and its very first best-sellers

It may feel like it's always been a thing, but the first Amazon Prime Day was on Wednesday, July 15, 2015, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the site's launch in July 1995. Amazon promised a one-day sales event for the site's Prime subscribers that would be "one of the biggest deals extravaganzas in the world," according to then vice president of Amazon Prime, Greg Greeley.

The first Prime Day included 24 hours of deals for shoppers in the U.S., U.K., Spain, Japan, Italy, Germany, France, Canada, and Austria. Prime members ordered 34.4 million items during the event, which became the biggest sales day in Amazon's history, topping 2014's Black Friday, the company wrote in a blog post last month.

Among the most popular sales items in the U.S. that first year was the Instant Pot 7-in-1 programmable pressure cooker, which sold 24,000 units (compared to just 182 the previous Wednesday), according to Amazon. (The following year, Amazon sold a whopping 215,000 Instant Pot cookers, helping to build the product's cult following. Last year, Instant Pot sold over 300,000 units over 36 hours for the 2018 Prime Day event.)

Instant Pot on sale on Prime Day 2019

In addition to the Instant Pots, on Amazon Prime Day 2015 in the U.S. the following were sold: 56,000 Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy sets; 47,000 televisions; 12,000 "Fifty Shades of Grey" unrated edition Blu-rays; 51,000 Bose Headphones (compared to eight a week earlier); 14,000 iRobot Roomba 595 Pet Vacuum Cleaning Robots (compared to 1 the previous Wednesday); and 10,000 Meguiar's X2020 Supreme Shine Microfiber Towels, to name a few.

Top sellers around the world included Huggies Diapers in Canada, Green Smoothie mix in Japan, Monopoly in France and Croc sandals in Germany and Austria.  

When the first Prime Day launched in 2015, Amazon reportedly had an estimated 40 million U.S. members of its Prime subscription service, which at that time cost $99 per year. Today, Amazon reportedly boasts more than 100 million paid Prime subscribers, with an annual membership that now costs $119 per year and provides members with exclusive access to certain deals as well as free two-day shipping.

Amazon Prime Day is projected to make $5.8 billion in global sales

Amazon expanded last year's Prime Day event to last 36 hours, and it became the e-commerce giant's largest-ever shopping event. Prime members bought more than 100 million products during last year's 36-hour event, the company said, with top-selling items including Amazon-made products like the Fire TV Stick streaming media device and the Echo Dot smart speaker.

Last year's event also expanded to include deals at Whole Foods Market, the premium grocery store chain Amazon acquired for $13.7 billion in 2017. Customers can now get $10 to spend during Prime Day if they spend at least $10 at Whole Foods or on Prime Now before July 16.

For this year's Prime Day event, Amazon doubled-down and expanded the event to two full days, during which the company says there will be "more than one million deals" on products ranging from electronics to household products like toilet paper. This year's event now also stretches across 18 countries, double the number of the first event in 2015, and analysts project the company could generate up to $5.8 billion in global sales during the two-day event.

Meanwhile, Amazon's success with Prime Day has even inspired retail rivals like Walmart and Target to offer their own mid-July deals in an effort to appeal to online shoppers looking for mid-summer discounts.

Don't Miss:

How this high school dropout went from $100K in debt to bringing in $18M selling stuff on Amazon

How Instant Pot became a kitchen appliance with a cult following and a best-seller on Amazon

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