On October 11 and 12, Amazon held its Prime Early Access Sale, intended to “[give Prime] members a chance to kick off the holiday shopping season early.” Last year, we found that 30% of US online adults started their holiday shopping in October or earlier, so it’s not surprising that Amazon, along with other major retailers, announced major sales events for this month.

To get a closer look at what retailers and brands did during the Prime Early Access event, we reviewed 50 retailer’s and brands’ websites, spanning numerous categories. Among other highlights, we found that:

  • Nearly two-thirds of these 50 retailers and brands participated. Of these retailers and brands, 60% ran some form of a promotion, but only 8% held a sitewide sale. Instead, many offered sales on select products or ran additional promotions on their already-discounted sales sections. Additionally, a mere 6% offered free shipping with no minimum order as part of a promotion. (Note: This number excludes those that offer free shipping year-round.)
  • Numerous sales were “holiday-inspired.” Many retail home pages turned festive (e.g., with red/green/blue design, snowflakes, etc. ) for the early holiday sales. J.Crew called its event “The Holiday Head Start,” Macy’s was “Holiday Early Access,” and others included “Cyber” or “Black Friday” in their marketing messages. Retailers like Barnes & Noble, Estée Lauder, and Nordstrom opted out of major sales but took the opportunity to promote their holiday gift guides.
  • Some retailers focused on pricing. Dell promoted “Black Friday prices.” Target instituted a “Holiday Price Match Guarantee,” where it will match prices if they go lower on Target from October 6 through December 24.
  • Exclusive, member-only deals were more common. Similar to what we saw in July during Prime Day, retailers and brands drew attention to their loyalty programs via exclusive sales that required the customer to be — or sign up to become — a loyalty member. Ace Hardware, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Kohl’s, LEGO, and PetSmart all had exclusive discounts or bonus-point promotions for their loyalty members (e.g., double points on purchases). Others, including Nike, simplehuman, and Tractor Supply, offered free shipping on all orders but only for their loyalty members.

Now that retailers have officially kicked off their holiday sale season, stay tuned for more holiday insights as part of our holiday prep blog series. And please get in touch if you have any questions!