Amazon’s Prime Day was the biggest sales day in its history, up 60% on 2016 led by the Echo

We said yesterday that all signs pointed to Amazon’s Prime Day sales event smashing through its own numbers, and that is exactly what happened: The company today announced that the 30-hour sale, which saw deep discounts on Amazon’s own Echo products as well as a host of other bargains (hundreds of thousands of items, in Amazon’s words), was the biggest sales day in the company’s history, and up 60 percent compared to a year ago.

“To those customers who tried Prime for the first time and our long time members, thank you for a great Prime Day,” said Greg Greeley, Vice President, Amazon Prime, in a statement. “Our teams around the world will keep working to add more and more to your membership, so Prime continues to make your life better every day. We are already looking forward to our Prime Day celebration next year.”

As we noted before, Prime Day was extended by some hours, and covered three more markets than before, but those expansions only accounted for some of the growth.

The biggest engine, according to our internal sources and Amazon’s own public statements, was a huge appetite for Amazon’s Echo line, home speakers powered by Amazon’s Alexa intelligent voice system, which come in small and larger sizes.

The smaller Echo Dot (as we predicted yesterday) was by far the biggest item sold. While Amazon does not specify, a reliable source told us yesterday that Echo devices were selling at a rate of “thousands per minute,” which Amazon later corroborated by noting that “Prime members in the U.S. are ordering more than 6,000 deals every minute” in an update late yesterday.

The Echo Dot, Amazon said in its final statement today, “was not only the best-selling Amazon device this Prime Day, but also the best-selling product from any manufacturer in any category across Amazon globally.”

The original, larger Echo was discounted by 50 percent (price cut to $89.99), while the Dot dropped by $15, bringing it to $34.99, with corresponding discounts in other markets where Echo devices are sold. Echo currently only supports commands and provides information in American and British English, as well as German.

Amazon doesn’t highlight any actual sales numbers — it never does — but it notes that Prime members (the event is exclusively reserved for members of Amazon’s loyalty scheme, which costs $99/year) bought seven times more Echo devices this year than last year. Tens of millions of customers used the Amazon app to shop in 13 countries.

While the Echo Dot was the most popular item sold, Amazon gets a huge hardware boost for its other products during the event, too. Other popular items included the Echo, Fire tablets and Kindle devices, all of which also saw record sales; and the Amazon Fire TV Edition of the Element 55-inch 4K Ultra HD smart LED TV was “the best-selling TV deal in Amazon history.”

Other top deals included, in the U.S., the Instant Pot pressure cooker; 23andMe DNA tests; the TP-Link Wi-Fi Smart Plug; and Sony PlayStation 4, and the following in other countries, according to the company:

  • Spain: SanDisk Ultra Fit 64GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive; Moto G Plus (5th Generation) Smartphone; Lenovo IdeaPad 310 Laptop
  • Mexico: AmazonBasics Apple Certified Lightning to USB Cable; Nintendo Switch
  • Japan: SAVAS Whey Protein; Happy Belly pure bottled water
  • Italy: Finish All in One Max tablets; Caffe Vergnano 1882 Espresso machine
  • India: OnePlus 5 phone; Seagate Expansion 1.5TB Portable External Drive
  • Germany and Austria: PlayStation Plus Membership; Soda Stream
  • France and Belgium: PlayStation Plus Membership; Game of Thrones – The Complete Season 1 to 6 Blu-Ray
  • China: Fisher-Price Soothe and Glow Seahorse; A brief history of humankind+ A brief history of tomorrow set
  • Canada: Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Multi-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, 8 Qt; AmazonBasics AA Rechargeable Batteries (8-Pack)

Amazon’s Prime Day is a straightforward move by the company to offer a members-only sale event, not unlike those created by brick-and-mortar stores, to both push more memberships — and, of course, sales, aiming for economies of scale and volume to make up for the lost margins.

It’s significant not just because it’s one more opportunity for consumers to pick up goods at better prices, but also because it points to how the company can use its size and retail muscle to successful effect online. It doesn’t mention how many members it added over the period — I’d be interested to know how much of the volume was attributed to first-time Prime users.

It’s also a notable bellwether about what’s attracting consumers to open their wallets these days. For this Prime Day, the name of the game was Echo. Still, the Alexa-powered Echo is a relatively new product, so it remains to be seen if this is our era’s hula hoop, or the next smartphone.