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16 Jun 2021

13 things you need to know before Amazon Prime Day

Inside shopping tips from how to spot fake reviews to scoring the best bargains

Amazon Prime Day 2021 is coming soon. Here are some inside tips on how to get the best bargains in this year's big summer Amazon sale.

The dates for Amazon Prime Day have been confirmed as 21 and 22 June 2021.

The two-day sale event is returning to its usual summer spot this year after being delayed until October in 2020 due to Covid-19. However, in previous years it tended to fall in July and, according to Tech Radar, this year's June dates will be the earliest the event has ever taken place.

So what do you need to know before splurging your cash? Read on for expert tips on getting the best price, as well as how to spot fake reviews and whether the Amazon's Choice badge actually means a product's any good.

See our expert pick of the best Amazon Prime deals.

1. What and when is Amazon Prime Day?

Amazon Prime Day is an annual sales event, which will take place this year on 21-22 June. Deals go live at midnight and popular products are likely to sell out before the end of the 48-hour period.

Prime Day is only available to members of Amazon Prime, which costs £7.99 per month. New members get a 30-day free trial, which you might consider worth it to bag a bargain - just don't forget to cancel if you don't want to continue.

If you're tempted, you can find out more at Amazon.com, but watch out if you don't want to join: we've found many Amazon customers have accidentally signed up to Prime without intending to do so.

Amazon Alexa users will reportedly be offered early access to some deals.

2. What products should I look for on Amazon Prime Day?

Our experts spent Amazon Prime Day 2020 analysing dozens of deals and found some were much better than others.

There were genuine bargains to be had on selected headphones, smartwatches and, perhaps unsurprisingly, Amazon-branded devices such as the Echo Show 5.

However, we also uncovered a child car seat on offer that's so dangerous we've labelled it a Don't Buy, and other products where better alternatives were available for less money.

Click to discover our experts' pick of the best Amazon Prime Day deals of 2021.

3. What do shoppers really think about Amazon?

We quiz thousands of people every year to reveal the best and worst shops, both in-store and online.

Our results include Amazon and other online marketplaces such as eBay, plus more traditional bricks-and-mortar stores and their websites. We break down how well stores performed in specific categories, from clothes and beauty to DIY and tech.

Find out whether you should be buying from Amazon by checking out the full results of our best and worst shops surveys.

4. Don't always trust customer reviews

Good reviews are crucial for people trying to sell on online marketplaces, as potential customers are more likely to buy something if others have bought and enjoyed it.

But positive reviews can also be bought, with sellers paying genuine people for a good review by giving them the product for free or promising gift cards to fund their next purchase. And these aren't the only ways fraudsters can exploit online reviews.

Which? has conducted numerous investigations into fake reviews on Amazon, as well as other online marketplaces, exposing the multitude of tricks sellers use to artificially promote their products. Don't get caught out by misleading or fake customer reviews. Top tips to help you avoid getting stung include:

  • Read the comments: do they seem genuine? Does the language seem natural? Are specific details about the product mentioned?
  • Check the dates: if a large number of reviews were posted at the same time, this can be a red flag.
  • Look at the reviewer: see what else they have bought - do these seem like plausible purchases, or could they be being paid or incentivised to review products?

For more expert tips, read our guide on how to spot a fake review.

5. Grab a bargain by setting up price alerts

Got your eye on a particular item but wondering if Amazon Prime Day is really the right time to buy?

You can compare the prices of items online using websites such as CamelCamelCamel (for Amazon only), and Google Shopping, Kelkoo, PriceRunner, and PriceSpy among others.

These can help you track prices of items you're interested in. Some send you an alert when the price drops and have price history charts.

6. What does Amazon's Choice actually mean?

Amazon doesn't fully explain how its 'Amazon's Choice' badge is awarded - but we know it's an algorithm that uses both ratings and price.

Many shoppers view the Amazon's Choice badge as a mark of quality, but our exclusive Amazon's Choice investigation last year showed Amazon's Choice recommending potentially poor-quality products that appeared to have been artificially boosted by incentivised and fake reviews. Which? believes the system is easily gamed by unscrupulous sellers.

Our top tip? Don't just rely on the Amazon's Choice badge. Read the reviews yourself, compare prices and look at delivery times, then you'll be much more likely to make a good purchase.

7. Look for price fluctuations

A year-long Which? price-tracking investigation found Amazon adjusted its prices much more frequently than any of the other big-name retailers we checked.

We tracked the prices of 32 of the most popular makes and models of home and tech appliances across five of the biggest retailers: Amazon, AO.com, Argos, Currys PC World and John Lewis. We found that Amazon adjusted its prices much more frequently than any of the other retailers we looked at.

But it also offered the lowest prices more often than other retailers for the products in our investigation. In fact, it was the most competitive on pricing across multiple categories, including cameras, fitness trackers, kettles, electric toothbrushes and TVs. So if you're in the market for a big-ticket item, it might be worth watching the price over a few weeks to see whether it changes.

8. Know who you're buying from

When shopping with online marketplaces such as Amazon, it's important to know whether you're buying directly from the retailer (in this case Amazon) or a third-party seller, as this can affect your rights.

The product page lists who the item is sold by. If it's a third-party seller, the order can either be fulfilled by Amazon or not; again this should be clear on the listing.

If you are buying from Amazon directly, or if the order is from a third-party seller but fulfilled by Amazon, then Amazon handles delivery, customer service and returns. If you're buying from a third-party seller which is fulfilling the order itself then delivery, customer service and returns are handled by the seller, rather than by Amazon.

The good news is that these purchases are covered by Amazon's A-Z Guarantee, which means there is extra support from Amazon if something goes wrong.

9. How is Amazon Prime Day different from Black Friday?

Black Friday and Amazon Prime Day are now big days in the shopping calendar.

Amazon Prime Day usually runs across two days and is only available to members of Amazon Prime.

Black Friday (which nearly all big retailers take part in) is officially on Friday 26 November this year, but retailers often release deals several weeks before the day itself.

Big sales days such as these can offer great bargains. But, with Black Friday in particular, our research shows that the deals aren't always as good as they seem.

Find out how to avoid fake deals on Black Friday, then read our top 15 shopping tips for Black Friday to help you grab a bargain.

10. What is commingling and why is it important?

You've probably never heard of the term 'commingling', but if you shop with Amazon it might well have affected your purchases.

Commingling is the term used to describe a practice used by Amazon to help ensure speedy deliveries. It means that when a customer buys a product from a particular marketplace seller, sometimes Amazon sends the same product to you but from a different seller. These sellers essentially share their stock, and it helps them keep deliveries fast and efficient.

Critics, however, have warned it increases the risk of counterfeit products ending up in consumers' hands.

11. Watch out for dangerous products

Not everyone realises online marketplaces such as Amazon aren't responsible for the safety of the products sold through their sites.

In May 2021, a Which? investigation found 21 of the 36 teeth whiteners available on online marketplaces exceeded the legal amount of hydrogen peroxide permitted for home use, including five out of 13 products available on Amazon Marketplace, when we tested them in our labs.

And last year, Which? worked with five other European consumer associations to investigate 250 products bought from online marketplaces such as AliExpress, Amazon, eBay and Wish. A staggering 66% of them failed safety tests. Products included smoke and CO alarms that couldn't detect smoke or carbon monoxide, Christmas lights that could give you an electric shock, USB chargers and travel adaptors that could cause a fire and a power bank that melted during testing.

Which? is calling for the government to give online marketplaces legal responsibility for the safety of products sold on their sites. Until then, these platforms need to enhance their checks before including sellers on their sites, and take strong action against those who break the lawto help End Dangerous Products.

12. Amazon Echo, Fire and Kindle - are they worth buying?

Amazon is unusual in that it's a retailer that sells its own products, as well an online marketplace. It also has a range of Amazon-branded products - the Fire TV streaming devices, Amazon Echo range of smart speakers and Kindle ebook readers are among the best-known of these.

If you see an Amazon-branded product on sale during Prime Day and want to check whether you should buy it, check out our expert Which? test scores:

13. Be aware of psychological sales tricks

Like all big retailers and sales events, Amazon Prime Day uses psychological tricks to persuade you to part with your cash.

Wealth management firm Hargreaves Lansdowne has identified the following four Prime Day tactics, which it's worth being aware of to ensure you don't end up spending more than you planned:

  • Scarcity: This is a mental shortcut that places a value on an item based on how easily it might be lost. Sales often have a time countdown or limited stock. This idea of scarcity increases shoppers' desire to get a deal - and gives us the feel-good factor when we do.
  • Sunk cost fallacy: This psychological phenomenon means shoppers don't want to waste time or money they have already invested. Amazon plays on this by offering a £10 voucher for Prime Day in advance to people who have spent £10 on Amazon with certain small businesses. This makes shoppers feel compelled to shop in order not to waste the credit.
  • Psychology of colour: Amazon's big discounts are coloured blue - psychologists say this can create a feeling of reliability and security and is often used in advertising and marketing.
  • Benevolence: We feel good when we do something for others. So Amazon is doubling the amount it gives to charities via Amazon Smile on Prime Day.

(This article was updated on 2 June 2021 to confirm the dates of Amazon Prime Day, and on 16 June to explain psychological sales tricks.)