Amazon Prime Day: What to expect
AMAZON are about to hold their second annual Prime Day, promising thousands of offers and deals for members across "nearly all" departments and categories.
As in other countries where Amazon operate, Prime Day will start at midnight local time on Tuesday July 12th, with new deals becoming available as often as every five minutes.
Although the discounts, deals, and competitions are limited to Amazon Prime members, it's possible for non-members to get access by signing up for a free 30-day trial before the day itself.
Rise of the shopping event
The event is a chance for Amazon to spread sales a little more evenly throughout the year, coming well ahead of the pre-Christmas rush.
In the US, that rush starts with a bang after Thanksgiving, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Since Walmart-owned Asda introduced the idea of Black Friday to the UK in 2013, both events have proven popular - with online retailers at least, who don't have the same kind of crowd control concerns as their bricks and mortar associates.
By comparison, it's early days for Prime Day as a major shopping event, but even so Amazon say last year's Prime Day was the "biggest day for sales internationally".
The items included in the sale depend on which country we're in: in the UK, some of the most popular promoted items last year included Lenovo laptops, video games, headphones and power toothbrushes.
Among the big name offers - such as discounts on Dyson vacuum cleaners, and Amazon's own Fire TV sticks and tablets - there'll be offers on smaller and less obvious products, and Amazon say that there will be deals on various toys "nearly all day".
Sale day improvements
Last year's Prime Day saw Amazon selling 398 items per second - so it's not surprising that they fell victim to their own success, selling out of stock many "Deals of the Day" items far too soon.
This year, they say, they've "dramatically increased" their inventory when it comes to the products that'll be getting Deal of the Day status, in order not to run out before the full 24 hours is up.
The number of small businesses and Marketplace sellers taking part is also much higher than it was last year: Amazon say around 30% of all the UK's Prime Day deals will be from small businesses or other stockists.
As their inventories are likely to be much more limited, we can expect to see more of those included in Amazon's "Lightning Deals", which offer a restricted number of items for just a short period of time.
Another common complaint last year was that some deals were difficult to track down, so this year Amazon say the offers will be navigable by category.
Is it worth joining?
Whether it's worth joining Amazon Prime to gain access to the various offers depends on a number of factors - not least of which is whether we've tried the service before.
While Amazon offer a 30-day free trial membership of Prime, it's only available to those who haven't signed up before, whether for a previous trial or the full service.
Those who have will need to join again, at either £7.99 per month, or £79 for the year.
Signing up for the free trial is simple enough - but it's worth noting those who don't cancel before it ends will be charged the annual fee all at once.
The other main factor determining whether membership will turn out to be good value or not is which of the other Prime services we use.
All Prime members now get access to a range of titles in the Prime Video streaming service. Much of the content is only available to rent or buy at an extra cost - only subscribers to Amazon Instant Video, which Prime Video replaced, get access to the full catalogue, at a cost of £5.99 a month.
There are similar restrictions on content with the bundled Prime Music service, which launched in 2014 to a somewhat lacklustre reception.
Although its functionality has improved since then, it still falls way behind competitors in terms of content - Prime Music has a library of around one million songs, compared with the industry average of 15 million.
The newest Prime membership perk is available to Kindle users; Kindle First gives members early access to one of six new books each month, a month ahead of them going on sale to non-members.
Until late last year, the only Prime membership perk was free one day delivery on all items - and for many Amazon customers, it's still the main attraction.
While it's possible to get free delivery without joining Prime, it normally requires us to spend a certain amount, and even then, it's only available for some items.
Then there's Prime Now - Amazon's one hour delivery service. After being limited to parts of London and nearby last year, Amazon say it's now available to about 30% of the population and being extended further.
Amazon are putting all this effort into making Prime attractive to us, because once we're signed up, the data suggests we spend up to twice as much with them as non-members.
And while Prime Day is aimed at subscribers, non-members will still find there are plenty of deals and promotions available to them - both with the online giant and with other retailers using the event to run same day deals of their own.