Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, Amazon wasn't able to have Prime Day in July this year, but from midnight pacific time on Tuesday, Oct. 13 through Wednesday, Oct. 14, the sale is on with exclusive discounts for Amazon Prime members.
According to consumer psychology expert Kelly Haws, like Black Friday or Cyber Monday, the idea with Prime Day is that Amazon "tries to throw a lot at a consumer to get them excited about this very limited time opportunity," the Vanderbilt University marketing professor says.
Given that, it can be challenging for consumers to navigate the sale without over-spending or buying things that they have no use for. So it's important to be aware of how behave around sales and why, says Priya Raghubir, a marketing professor at New York University's Stern School of Business who specializes in consumer behavior and psychology.
"It's not just the very strong cognitive economic benefit that a deal is providing us, it is also so much more," Raghubir says. For example, scoring a good deal on something can make us feel excited and even smarter, because we feel like we've minimized regret.
Here are some common pitfalls to avoid if you're shopping this Amazon Prime Day.
Amazon Prime Day deals are only available to Amazon Prime members, which adds an element of exclusivity that may compel you to spend more money, Haws says.
It can also make members feel like "I should take advantage of buying more because I have already paid for the right to be in the 'club,'" she adds.
If you're not currently a member and looking to participate in Prime Day, and have not had an account before, think about signing up for a 30-day free trial. If you've previously had a membership, you can pay for a one-month membership ($12.99 or $6.49 for students). But keep in mind that Amazon will automatically charge you at the end of your free trial or chosen membership period, so you'll need to turn off the "auto renewal" function in your preferences if you no longer want to pay for the services.
If you're an Amazon Alexa user, you can ask the device to sign you up for Prime, and you'll receive $5 to use on Prime Day. Additionally, when Prime members spend $10 at Whole Foods or a physical Amazon store between now and Oct. 14, you get $10 in credit (up to $50) to use on Prime Day.
Ultimately, you should consider whether it's even worth it to spend money in order to save money. In some situations, the subscription fee might be more than the discount provided. Or if there's one item you have your eye on, it might be worthwhile to ask a friend or family member who is an Amazon Prime member to buy it for you.
Research has shown that buying something at a price that's lower than what you're willing to pay, or lower than the standard price, is satisfying — regardless of the amount of money actually saved. Because of this, products that you never would've considered buying can seem more appealing just because they're discounted for a limited time on Prime Day.
Streamline your Prime Day shopping process by making a list of items that you'd actually like to score. Add the products to your Amazon Wishlist, and the retailer will notify you if any of the items you're coveting become Prime Day deals, says Sara Skirboll, shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot.
Also do a bit of research on the cost of the items you want, so that when the time comes you understand whether or not it's actually a really good deal, Daws says. "Frequently, the price that is used as a reference when you have a reduced price is not the price at which the product sells," Raghubir says.
(Last year, the most-purchased items on Prime Day included: LifeStraw Personal Water Filter, Instant Pot DUO60 and 23andMe Health + Ancestry kits.)
Some people really enjoy "the thrill of acquisition" that comes with scoring what we consider "a good deal," Haws says. From a psychological standpoint, we tend to feel "self-congratulatory" when we buy discounted goods, because we believe we've out-smarted the system, Raghubir says.
If that sounds like you, create some boundaries to avoid over-spending on impulse purchases. Haws suggests giving yourself a budget (for example, $50) for items that are not on your list but may catch your eye on Prime Day.
"Almost turn it into a game for yourself," she says.
Or you can buy yourself an Amazon gift card, to use specifically on Prime Day, Raghubir says.
"Scarcity is one of the most persuasive techniques that that marketers use," Haws says. Whenever there's a restriction, for example, the amount of time you have to buy something or the quantity of a product available, it seems more desirable, Raghubir adds.
In the case of Amazon Prime Day, you only have a limited time (Lightning Deals on Amazon Prime only last a number of minutes) to purchase an item, which increases the urgency to act or respond immediately. But before you buy anything, ask yourself: will I still want this in three months?
"Force yourself to elaborate on what the potential future outcomes or consequences of this particular purchase might be," Daws says.
The items that are included in Prime Day can be a bit of a grab bag. However, there are certain categories that tend to always get discounted, according to Skirboll. For example, smart home devices, TVs, laptops, appliances, household essentials, beauty items, pet products and toys will likely be discounted, she says. Plus, don't forget that Amazon has a robust fashion section, and a newsstand where you can buy magazine subscriptions, she adds.
Amazon isn't the only major retailer with big October sales: Target announced two "deal days" on Oct. 13 and 14, and Walmart's Big Save event will run from Oct. 11 to 15.
Before you jump on an Amazon Prime deal, check to see if other retailers are offering it for cheaper, Haws suggests. On the flip side, you can download the Amazon Assistant web browser plug-in, which will automatically compare prices and suggest products on Amazon or Google.
And if the item you want isn't on sale, remember that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are right around the corner. "The odds are pretty strong that there will continue to be a lot of good deals in the marketplace leading up to and throughout the holiday season," Haws says.
Downloading the Amazon app and enabling push notifications is an easy way to keep track of deals in real time on Prime Day, Skirboll says. You can also "Watch this Deal" and get notified when a Lightning Deal is happening.
If you use any Amazon Alexa-enabled devices, you can simply ask, "Alexa, what are my Prime Day deals?"
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