Amazon Prime Day seen setting new sales record for e-commerce giant

Amazon raising bar for faster online shopping

Prime numbers, indeed: Amazon Prime Day sales are expected to top $3.4 billion this year, a 44 percent increase from the $2.4 billion haul last year as the e-commerce giant expanded both the duration of the shopping holiday and the number of deals offered, according to a recent report from Coresight Research.

In addition to promoting its line-up of consumer electronics such as the Echo Dot smart speakers and its private-label brands in apparel, furniture and home decor, among other areas, the Seattle-based company expanded Prime Day to 36 hours from 24. This year's celebrations also included its Whole Foods high-end grocery chain that it acquired in 2017 for $17 billion. 

According to Amazon, Prime Day sales topped last year's Cyber Monday, Black Friday and Prime Day. Record numbers of customers also signed up for the service, according to Amazon.  

Coresight's forecast may even prove to be conservative, since it is based on the statistical analysis of previous years' estimates.  GBH Insights estimated Amazon Prime Day sales at $3.6 billion, while RBC Capital's Mark Mahaney estimated a haul of about $2 billion. Amazon hasn't reported an official number. 

In the years since Prime Day was established in 2013 to celebrate the company's 20th anniversary, competitors to Amazon have also begun coinciding promotions. Target reported Wednesday that it had its largest online shopping day of the year on Tuesday.

Amazon Prime Day becomes a 36-hour event

Amazon Prime has proven to be a cash cow for Amazon, which provides members with free two-day shipping and access to its video content for a yearly fee of $119.  Earlier this year, the company disclosed that there were more than 100 million Prime Members worldwide. Amazon doesn't provide a geographical breakdown of its Prime members, but Prime Members are believed to spend more on average than customers who don't have the service, analysts have said.

"There were some technical glitches [Monday afternoon at the start of the sale] but thankfully, they were able to resolve them quickly," said Daniel Ives, head of technology research at GBH Insights. "I believe there is a ripple effect that should benefit other retailers but that Amazon will continue to be the net winner.

Roughly 70 percent of U.S. shoppers had said in retail industry surveys that they planned to visit Amazon.com during Prime Day, which should set the stage for a blowout quarterly earnings report from Amazon next week as it benefits from the growth in its Amazon Web Services cloud computing business, according to Ives, who rates Amazon's stock as "highly attractive."

"Our analysis indicates the robust North America retail channel is showing no signs of slowing down in [the second half of 2018] as the Prime membership moat that Bezos & Co. have built is gaining further steam in the field and the Amazon flywheel effect is further playing out globally among consumers," he wrote in a note to clients.

Shares of Amazon, which have surged more than 57 percent this year, closed down slightly Wednesday, at $1,842.92, indicating that Wall Street had factored in a robust Prime Day performance into how it values the company.