How Amazon conquered Cyber Monday, told through the deals it hawked every year

Prime time.
Prime time.
Image: Reuters/Lucas Jackson
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There are a lot of ways to track Amazon’s stunning ascent in global consumerism: its revenue, its market cap, its stock price, its ever-growing registry of Amazon Prime members. In honor of the holiday shopping season, here’s one more: Amazon’s annual Cyber Monday press release.


: “Amazon.com Offers Black Friday Deals Now Through Cyber Monday”

Amazon started teasing its Cyber Monday deals in a press release 10 years ago with a modest assortment of offerings. They included a Tommy Hilfiger men’s green bezel watch ($49.99 down from $105), a 42-inch Panasonic 720p Plasma HDTV ($699 down from $999) and “19” by Adele (the audio CD for $8.99 down from $15.98). To better compete with brick-and-mortar outlets, Amazon also invited in-store shoppers to text “COMPARE” to “AMAZON” (262966) with the product name, promising to reply with a text message listing the price on Amazon.com.



: “Amazon.com Kicks-off the Holiday Shopping Season” and “Holiday Deals Continue Through Cyber Monday at Amazon”

For the next two years, the selection was similar: TVs, kitchen gadgets, fancy men’s watches, and pop cultural hits (“The Twilight Saga Collection” box set by Stephanie Meyer in 2009; an MP3 download of “The Fame Monster” by Lady Gaga in 2010). Amazon also started highlighting deals that were “exclusive to Amazon,” including a 17-inch “Twilight” Edward Cullen doll in 2009 ($89.99 down from $139.99).

The company encouraged shoppers to avoid the hassle of brick-and-mortar retail, and to check its designated deals page “often” to catch sales kicking off later in the week. “There’s no need to fight crowds for parking spaces or to stand in long check-out lines just to try and get a handful of deals on devices that might not have the features you really want,” Paul Ryder, Amazon’s then-VP of electronics, said in the 2009 release. “Shoppers will really benefit from doing simple research online without leaving the comfort of their homes.”


: “Cyber Monday: The Season’s Best Deals – No Fighting for Parking. No Waiting in Line. Just Lean Back, Put Your Feet up and Shop.”

In 2011 the Cyber Monday press release heading got much longer and, for the first time, featured Amazon products. The release highlighted Amazon’s newest Kindles and quoted PR manager Sally Fouts calling Kindle Fire the “best-selling item across all of Amazon.” The “Twilight” series made a repeat appearance, this time with DVDs going for $6.99 each, and instead of men’s watches there was the Panasonic Linear Vortex Shaving System. Amazon also invited customers to “ensure they’re getting competitive prices” in physical stores by using the “Price Check by Amazon App” for iPhone and Android.



: “Great Deals Don’t Stop on Black Friday – Amazon Offers Huge Savings for Cyber Monday” to “Amazon.com Offering its Best Deals of the Year in Celebration of Cyber Monday”

Over these four years, the number of deals Amazon hawked in its Cyber Monday press release expanded. In 2012 the company highlighted 31 of “thousands” of deals; the next year it teased 54 deals and, for the first time, broke them into categories (“Electronics,” “Pets,” “Kitchen”). Amazon continued prominently advertising its own products, which by 2015 included the Amazon Echo, various Kindles, Amazon Fire TV, and a year of unlimited storage on Amazon Cloud Drive. Sadly for vampire fans everywhere, no “Twilight” products made the list these years.


: “Amazon.com Cyber Monday Deals Are Here!”

By this point Amazon has transitioned from “seller of stuff” to “seller of Amazon stuff.” In 2016, it highlighted 60 deals, led by a brand new category, “Amazon Devices.” That included savings on 13 different Amazon products, from Dash Buttons (“99 cents to buy and $4.99 credit back after your first purchase”) to Kindles to the Echo Dot (“only $39.99”). Other electronics were shunted to second place in the list. Amazon also emphasized Prime, advertising savings on calendars sold with Prime photos, delivery through its one-hour service Prime Now, and other perks that were enjoyed by Amazon Prime members.


: “Amazon’s Cyber Monday Brings Incredible Deals and Convenient Delivery”

This year the “Amazon Devices” category is back again, with the spotlight on Alexa and the new Echo products it announced in September. Amazon is pushing its voice-enabled personal assistant hard, with discounts of $20 to $50 on its Echoes and an offer for Alexa owners to shop select deals as early as 5pm PT on Nov. 26. Perhaps concerned by the burgeoning tech backlash, Amazon is also showing off its charitable side, reminding shoppers that they can “easily give back to their favorite charity while shopping through smile.amazon.com.”

But here’s the real kicker: Amazon is pushing “New Ways to Shop” that, well, aren’t very new at all. They include buying Alexa devices at more than 100 Whole Foods stores (Amazon bought Whole Foods in June for $13.7 billion), staffed “pop-up stores” in five cities where customers can test devices and learn more about Amazon Prime, and $10 Amazon.com credits for customers who spend $30 or more in Amazon Books, a chain of physical book stores. In other words, 10 years after Amazon.com started touting Cyber Monday in press releases, it’s trying to take things offline. So much for “Just Lean Back, Put Your Feet up and Shop.”