Update

Amazon Prime Day 2017: Everything you need to know about Amazon's shopping extravaganza

If you're in the mood to shop come July 10th, here's what you should know about Amazon's third-annual "shopping event."

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Credit: Amazon

Updated 7/11/2017: Amazon Prime Day has started! Check out our list of the best deals.

Prime Day, Amazon’s summer shopping event, is back for its third appearance. On Monday, July 10, Amazon will offer deals for thirty hours on more than 100,000 products on its sites around the world. Bargain hunters can track all the action via the company’s Prime Day landing page.

For those who’ve yet to check out Prime Day, the event’s purpose may seem unclear. The company originally touted it as a “global shopping event with more deals than Black Friday,” but July lacks major gift-giving holidays like November and December do.

To keep Prime Day important to consumers, Amazon is giving people a reason to shop—and that’s by offering more deals, better deals, and higher stock of the best deals. For those reasons, we expect to again see some good buys this year and a general improvement on sale prices compared to last year. Here’s what you need to know about the day, and how to prepare.

Note: To take advantage of Prime Day sales, you must be a member of Amazon Prime. This service is Amazon’s $99-a-year club that offers free two-day shipping on orders, as well as a litany of frills like free premium video and music streaming, free online photo storage, a Kindle lending library, and various promotional offers. New Prime members get a free 30-day trial, which means you can sign up, get the Prime deals, and then dump the membership before the $99 fee kicks in.

Prime Day: A brief history

Truth be told, the first Prime Day wasn’t that great. Amazon introduced the day in 2015 to celebrate the company’s 20th anniversary—and of course increase its number of Prime members. As for the sales, there were a few decent deals, but critics and shoppers largely agreed the day was a bust compared to the holidays.

In 2016, the deals got better, but smart shoppers still had to do some legwork to separate the good buys from the bad. Prime Day 2016 was also hit with technical issues surrounding Amazon’s checkout system. Last year’s sales saw some stiff competition for Lightning Deals, too, with many of them selling out crazy fast.

(For the uninitiated, Lightning Deals generally offer some of the best sale prices on Amazon. They feature limited stock available at a low price for a short time, which makes the demand for them that much higher.)

What to expect from Prime Day 2017

Similar to 2016, Amazon is planning for nearly a week of sales as an appetizer for the main deals smorgasbord. From July 5 through July 9, Amazon will offer deals based on a daily theme:

July 5th: Alexa voice shopping

July 6th: Amazon Music

July 7th: Amazon Video

July 8th: Everyday Essentials

July 9th: Amazon Reading

In addition to the themes, every lead-up day will see offers on smartphones and Amazon devices, and Prime Pantry. You can also get a $20 discount on a new Amazon Prime membership if you voice-order it through an Echo device.

As for Prime Day itself, the start time depends on the devices you have.

The official start time is 6:00 p.m. Pacific / 9:00 p.m. Eastern on Monday, July 10. Anyone with an Alexa-enabled device, however, can use Alexa voice shopping to access select deals starting at 4:00 p.m. Pacific / 7:00 p.m. Eastern. That’s a full two hours before Prime Day officially begins.

After the 6:00 p.m. Pacific start time, Prime Day continues for another thirty hours until closing time at 11:59 p.m. Pacific on Tuesday, July 11. For the east coast that means the deals stop at 2:59 a.m. on Wednesday, July 12.

Prime Day Tips

Let us guide you to the best deals

If you want to avoid doing any work, we’ll be offering our own curated list of the best deals on electronics and tech. Just check back here or the PCWorld homepage for the link on July 10. Easy-peasy.

Do your research

When it comes to Prime Day, it pays to do your research. Like any retailer, Amazon mixes true deals with “sales” that are really just regular prices (or close to it) with a deal tag. To avoid that pitfall, look up historical prices before buying.

The number one site you need to bookmark (besides Amazon) is CamelCamelCamel.com. This is an Amazon price-tracking site with historical charts and a brief summary of recent price changes.

Example Screenshot of CamelCamelCamel.com PCWorld

Let’s say you saw a deal on a G.Skill Ripjaws KM780 mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches. You’d type KM780 into CamelCamelCamel and find the historic pricing of that product (pictured above).

CamelCamelCamel says the best pricing on this keyboard was $90 last November, and that the highest was $170 in late 2015. With that information and the larger pricing chart, you have the tools to decide whether or not that keyboard is worth the current sale price.

If the sale price was $100, for example, you’d see that, while it’s not the best price ever, it would still be the best price for that keyboard in a while.

Plan ahead for Lightning Deals

Historical price tracking is great, but what about those all important Lightning Deals? That’s where you’ll find most of the very best Prime Day prices, and the more popular ones sell out fast—like hot-concert-tickets fast.

With little time to buy, forget about historical price-checking in the moment. One thing you can do is look ahead, as Amazon often teases its lightning deals in advance. If you visit the Prime Day webpage, for example, you may see a carousel of Lightning Deals. Keep scrolling those deals, and you’ll soon hit products that are on deck but haven’t yet started as deals.

If you find something in those upcoming Lightning Deals you’d like to buy, that’s the time to do historical price-checking. Then when the product goes on sale you’ll know right away if Amazon’s limited-time price is worth it.

Get alerts for specific Lightning Deals

Speaking of which, you don’t have to wait around or keep an eye on the clock to know when your deals are going live. The Amazon app for Android and iOS lets you build a deals watch list and then get notifications when your deals are active.

Once you’ve installed the Amazon app and signed in, go to Settings > Notifications > Your Watched & Waitlisted Deals. Activate the slider in that section. You can now add an upcoming item to your watch list—go to the deals page in the app, find the upcoming deals you’re interested in, and tap on “Watch this deal.”

If it’s too good to be true, it might be a knockoff

Remember that it’s not only Amazon that offers sales on Amazon on Prime Day. Third-party Amazon marketplace sellers are also eligible to sell items at low prices. Many of these sellers are great, but sometimes there are less-than-honest brokers out there pushing fake or low-quality products, as CNBC reported in 2016.

Before you buy—even with Lightning Deals—take a second to check that the seller and the product appear legitimate. Personally, I rarely by anything on Amazon unless it comes from, or is fulfilled by, Amazon. That way, I’m 100-percent covered by Amazon’s excellent customer service if anything goes wrong. With third-party marketplace sellers, you have to deal with them directly and can appeal to Amazon only if that effort fails.

Look beyond Amazon

Check out the rest of the Internet on Prime Day. With Amazon building so much hype, other retailers offer their own sales to compete. It’s a long shot to find the exact same gaming monitor on sale elsewhere, but it’s always worth checking online shops like Newegg, Staples, and Best Buy just in case.

Amazon’s a great place to find deals, but not every deal is what it seems. With a little preparation and a good dose of research, however, you can find the truly great deals on Prime Day.

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