As Amazon on Monday kicked off a buffet of holiday shopping specials, it was clear that the e-commerce giant’s approach to Black Friday deals is more than an effort to win your seasonal dollars. It is designed to lure you into its popular Prime program.
Amazon announced that it will offer more than 30,000 “Lightning Deals” this holiday season, roughly double the number of limited-time promotions it offered last year. And, crucially, it will again make those deals available 30 minutes early to shoppers who pay $99 a year for Prime memberships. By opening those sales first to Prime customers, it appears Amazon is trying to give deal-hunters a reason to try its membership program.
Once they’re members, the theory goes, those shoppers will spend more of their shopping budget overall with Amazon if they know they won’t have to pay for shipping. Amazon is thought to have at least 40 million Prime members, but the company has been trying to lard the program up with more perks lately to attract even more members. The company is beefing up its original TV programming for Prime members and, in some cities, is now offering them two- or one-hour delivery.
Amazon said its Lightning Deals this year will include 30 percent off a 55-inch Sony 4K TV, 40 percent off certain styles of Frye boots, and 47 percent off Jaybird X Sport Bluetooth headphones. It remains to be seen just how many of the deals will be found on items shoppers will want to put under their Christmas trees. In July, when Amazon held a massive Prime Day sale that it promised would have Black Friday-like deals, many customers took to social media to gripe that many of the deals were on routine items such as knee braces, storage containers and shoe horns. (Still, Amazon pulled down greater sales that day than on any previous Black Friday.)
Amazon’s deals hit the Web just one day after two of its key rivals, Wal-Mart and Target, kicked off some of their major efforts to win the holiday season. Wal-Mart on Sunday launched season-long price rollbacks on thousands of items, while Target began offering a free shipping-and-returns program that will last throughout the season. Best Buy earlier in October launched a holiday-season promotion for free shipping on all purchases.
Amazon’s chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post.