Learn from Amazon Prime Day Before the Holidays

Amazon Prime Day has come and gone, and the holiday shopping rush is just around the corner. Q4 is historically a stressful and competitive season for retail brands. But, if you use learnings from Prime Day to optimize your Amazon holiday selling strategy, it can really be the most wonderful time of the year.

Think of Q1-3 – and especially Amazon Prime Day – as an opportunity to put your best foot forward for the holidays. And whether things went swimmingly this Prime Day or left a lot of room for improvement, your brand is now one step ahead just for having participated.

“I never lose. I either win or I learn.”

–Nelson Mandela

Amazon Prime Day Retrospective

Unsurprisingly, Prime Day 2018 was the biggest yet, with over $4 billion in sales. It has increased by over 50% in sales each year over the last three years with no signs of slowing down.


Brands acting as third-party sellers saw, at a minimum, some boost in their sales, regardless of whether they participated in lightning or spotlight deals.

Top sellers even achieved as much as double their sales during Prime Day. On average, our clients saw an 80% growth in sales YoY.

Preparing for Prime Day

At Directional Cue, we spent the 60 days leading up to Prime Day ramping up budgets for Amazon Sponsored Products. Our goal was to learn the most from our campaigns and build up momentum ahead of Prime Day.

Beyond the summer shopping frenzy, these experiments can be used as the basis for a holiday promotion strategy for selling on Amazon.

For each brand we manage on Amazon, we built out new keywords to expand reach and tested higher bids to see if conversion rates improved. We boosted bids on broad- and phrase-match keywords and expanded campaign budgets to gather as much data as possible for analyzing customer search queries.

With this information, we determined which keywords to bid up on and learned new keywords we could build out to drive additional revenue. Our team made sure each brand had exact matches on top-performing keywords and set higher bids on these matches. This helped us capitalize on keywords that would be sure to convert on Prime Day.

Our Account Managers tried out new headline search ads to discover which product selection and phrasing converted the highest. Using the data we gathered, we were able to target the top-converting products to our higher funnel keywords. Based on our findings, we then sent higher funnel keyword traffic to the products that performed the best. We went over all campaigns with a fine tooth comb to find weak points, then optimized or turned them off.

Set Up Sponsored Ads for Success

To guarantee coverage during Prime Day, we reviewed the Sponsored Products budgets in anticipation of elevated CPC. We checked that credit cards were updated and had high enough limits to handle increased spend from the additional traffic. Running out of Ad budget during this peak time would prevent listings from showing up in search results. This would consequently slow down the momentum we worked hard to achieve. 

If Prime Day 2018 taught us anything, it’s that even Amazon is not impervious to technical difficulties. With major site glitches at the start of Prime Day, it was more important than ever to adjust bids in advance. First of all, it pays to capture traffic beforehand with non-brand campaigns while customers are researching what to buy. Secondly, if Amazon goes down during the upcoming holiday shopping hysteria, you may lose the ability to adjust your bids. That could mean missing out on valuable traffic and conversions. But hopefully, Amazon will have all its turkeys in a row before Black Friday hits.

“Prime Day, aside from being a lucrative sales day for Amazon, gives the e-commerce giant a chance to wrestle with system weaknesses ahead of the big dance: the holidays.”

– Daphne Howland, Marketing Dive Contributing Editor

Product Page Optimization

Before Prime Day, we confirmed that all top product listings had at least five quality bullet points in the descriptions. For qualifying products, we created Enhanced Brand Content and used product videos whenever possible. We made certain that all product images were high quality and ideally zoomable. Plus, by A/B testing primary images, we were able to choose those that converted the highest by Prime Day.

5- and 4-star reviews are crucial for ranking in Amazon. In preparation for Prime Day, we audited clients’ feedback management tools messaging so they could solicit positive feedback from customers and build credibility for top products. We also refuted unfair negative reviews and had them removed to keep ratings as high as they could be.

Promotions Preparation

We set up lower promotions two weeks ahead that could increase sales rank before running bigger promotions on Prime Day. Our team tested a variety of discounts to see what type of promotion would be the most effective for Prime Day. The goal was to entice customers to purchase while simultaneously maintaining acceptable margins. By driving up product sales rank, we were prepared to improve impressions during the upcoming rush of site traffic. It was prudent to focus promotions on listings with the Buy Box so the discount would be reflected in the details page.

It was also worthwhile to compare promotions vs. coupons to see which drove higher conversions. We took the time to ensure product eligibility issues were cleared up and also tested Lightning Deals for brands that qualified.

Account-Level Optimization

On Prime Day, customers expect to receive free shipping and preferably Prime shipping. Sellers need to turn these settings on a minimum of 30 days before Prime Day to get the most benefit. We used inventory data to determine which products (and how much) we needed to have in stock during Prime Day. Brands should stock inventory heavily based on sales projections, especially when it comes to bestsellers. Even before running out of product on Prime Day, Amazon would start to throttle ads in response to low inventory. This year, it also mattered more how brands played on mobile. “Mobile visitation saw an increase of 56% from Prime Day 2017 to 2018,” according to data from comscore.com.

Our team used strategic bundling in order to win the Buy Box on top products. We optimized each brand’s Store page with quality content and imagery, including custom hero banners. Evaluating which products would sell best during the holidays showed us where to focus our efforts. Finally, we were able to monitor competitor activity to determine what kinds of promotions they were testing. We kept track of updates they made to their pages and other key information to keep our brands pacesetting for Prime Day.

Get Ready for The Afterglow

The benefits of Prime Day don’t end when the sales do. Many sellers continue to enjoy a boost long after a holiday shopping event. Shoe brand StreetModa, for example, still experienced an 85% increase in sales the day after Prime Day, according to Digital Commerce 360. Some of Directional Cue’s clients kept up the momentum for weeks.

“We saw a nice halo effect after Prime Day.”

– Matt Kubancik, CEO of StreetModa, via digitalcommerce360.com

Post Prime Day Game Plan

Coming off Prime Day is the perfect time to begin planning for the holiday surge. A new study from AdRoll estimates that sellers can increase conversions by 7% by starting holiday campaigns in October instead of November. 40% of consumers begin their holiday shopping that early, according to Marketing Dive.

On the flipside, the majority of shoppers won’t finish their holiday gift-buying until December or even into January, according to a survey by Deloitte. So, it’s equally important to plan for extra traffic to your Amazon store beyond Cyber Monday.


Historically, Amazon’s market share during Q4 rises impressively every year. In 2017, they surpassed projections and came out with between 45% and 50% of all holiday e-commerce sales, according to Market Watch.

Any steps that were taken to get ready for Prime Day can be used for Amazon holiday planning, too. If you took the time to prepare your account properly, you likely saw significant spikes during the summer shopping event. This, in turn, boosts your Best Sellers Rank, which will generate more interest in your products heading into the holidays.  

“Prime Day serves multiple purposes, and one of them is from a logistical standpoint.It’s a dress rehearsal for the holidays as well.”

– Tom Forte, D.A. Davidson & Co. via thestreet.com

As a starting point, you can check out Amazon’s 2017 Holiday Ad Guide for some pointers for October – December. If you’re looking for a more succinct outline (and want to rest your eyes from all that orange text on blue), we’ve put together our own Amazon Holiday Prep Checklist as well.

Just enter your info below to access our holiday checklist interactive PDF download. Happy early (which means on-time!) holidays from the team at Directional Cue.

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Directional Cue’s Amazon Holiday 2018 Checklist »