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Prime Day 2016: What Amazon shoppers need to know (+video)

Prime Day begins at midnight Pacific time on July 12, and Amazon says it will be its 'biggest event ever. The event is for Amazon Prime members, but nonmembers can gain entry by signing up for a free 30-day trial of Prime.

In July 2015, Amazon set out to start a phenomenon when it created its own shopping holiday: Prime Day.

The company promised that Prime Day would dish out more deals than Black Friday, and the event set social media ablaze. It also skyrocketed Amazon’s worldwide order growth 266% over the same day in 2014. And on July 12, it’s coming back for round two.

We’re recapping last year and helping you make a game plan for Prime Day 2016.

A look back at Prime Day 2015

Amazon’s Prime Day launched at 12:01 a.m. Pacific time on July 15, 2015, firing off time-sensitive deals — called “lightning deals” — as often as every 10 minutes. These were combined with one-day-only “deals of the day.” And customers were given unlimited, free two-day shipping.

Only Amazon Prime members — who buy a subscription for $99 a year — had access to the event, but nonmembers could gain entry by signing up for a free 30-day trial of Prime.

The sale involved electronics and computers, toys, kid and baby items, movies, music, video games, clothing, jewelry and watches, home goods and more.

There were some standout savings. Bose SoundTrue on-ear headphones in white cost $79.99 (regularly $149.95). A 32-inch TV cost $75. Select Philips headphones were $50 off. And prices on some clothing and jewelry were slashed by 30%.

But for all the good, Prime Day is perhaps remembered most for the downright odd. Shoppers took to Twitter with the hashtag #PrimeDayFail, and news outlets, including Mashable, quickly assembled roundups of the weirdest deals. Contenders included a rub that promotes beard growth, a five-pound bag of red hot candies and a giant shoehorn — not exactly coveted deals.

Still, Amazon reported that it sold 34.4 million items across Prime-eligible countries during the event, 398 items per second. Prime Day broke all of the company’s prior Black Friday records.

Popular items included: televisions (47,000 sold on Prime Day), Bose headphones (41,000 sold) and iRobot Roomba 595 vacuum cleaning robots (14,000 sold).

A look ahead to Prime Day 2016

This year, Prime Day begins at midnight Pacific time on July 12, and Amazon says it will be its “biggest event ever.”

During the 24-hour period, there will be more than 100,000 deals available worldwide from across the retailer’s 40 product categories. New sales will start as frequently as every five minutes. And Amazon spokeswoman Julie Law says, “I can tell you that we are striving to have our lowest prices of the year.”

Amazon’s criteria for a great Prime Day includes three elements, according to Law: offering brand-name products at deep discounts, having enough products readily available for each deal, and making the site easy to navigate and filter by deal type.

And while Black Friday discounts generally target gift-centric items, Law says Prime Day will cut prices on products shoppers want to buy now: back-to-school items, summer entertainment products, swimwear, outdoor furniture, laptops and cameras, to name a few.

TVs and toys will be major players. Amazon will stock twice as many TVs as it did on Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined. And it’s striving to have a toy deal available at all times during the 24 hours, according to Law.

Anxious deal seekers can bookmark Amazon’s Prime Day page and the sale’s Facebook event page.

But what about the beard growth rub and other odd items from last year?

“I say we sort of embrace the weird and the wonderful,” Law offers. “When you hear Black Friday, you think TVs. And when you come to the site, and you see 40 categories of products, I understand that people may have been surprised.”

Not every deal will be for everyone, but hopefully everyone can find something to be excited about purchasing, Law says.

Prime Day will be limited to Amazon Prime members again this year. If you already pay for a membership, poking around the sale is a no-brainer. If you don’t belong to Prime, consider signing up for a free 30-day trial before the sale starts. But be careful: You’ll be automatically charged for a year of Prime ($99) if you don’t cancel on time.

We don’t think you should sit out Prime Day. But before you get in the game, develop a strategy. Here’s how:

  • Buy because you need it, not because it’s on sale. Sales encourage consumers to shop. Remember those 14,000 iRobot vacuum cleaners that shoppers scooped up on Prime Day? Amazon sold only one the Wednesday prior to the sale. That’s right, just one. Sure, the sale price was a large factor, but we venture the hype was, too. Don’t take it too seriously and walk away with more shoehorns than you need (if you need one at all, that is).
  • Be realistic. The sale won’t cover everything in the store or everything you want. Be prepared to sift through lesser deals in search of the handful of blockbuster discounts.
  • Set reminders. Prospective buyers can ask to receive reminders when certain deals begin with the free Amazon mobile app. You’ll have 15 minutes from the time you put a Lightning Deal — a limited-time, limited-quantity offering — in your cart to claim it, Law says. Follow through with your order to guarantee you get your item before it’s 100% claimed.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on Amazon Prime Day, so keep checking back for the best and, yes, the worst deals as they happen.

Courtney Jespersen is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: courtney@nerdwallet.comTwitter: @courtneynerd.

This article first appeared in NerdWallet.

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