As the world's largest online retailer, Amazon has a history of working  outside the box, as the company proved  in 2015 with its first-ever Amazon Prime Day sale.

On Tuesday, July 12, 2016, Amazon aims to do it all over again, promising even more for customers than before.

Just what is Amazon Prime Day, anyway?

Amazon Prime Day:

  • Is a now-annual sales event dedicated entirely to Amazon, with the initial 2015 iteration intended to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the business
  • Starts at midnight (Tuesday at 12am) 
  • Is open only to individuals who have a 30-day trial or regular membership to Amazon Prime, a subscription service that offers unlimited free shipping at $99 per year.

It's just another sale, right?

Not exactly! Even though many visitors to the 2015 sale were disappointed by poor site navigation and the quality, type, or variety of product offered, according to Amazon's website, worldwide Prime members ordered 398 items per second, surpassing the current Black Friday records and making it Amazon's biggest retail day of the year. Additionally, the company says that, this year, they'll have double the amount of TV inventory compared with Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.

What can I buy?

Toys and TVs are the hot items for the 2016 Prime sale. But this time around, Amazon says it's going to unveil "dramatically increased" inventory involving some 100,000 deals (translation, a new sale about every five minutes), as well as an improved, category-driven search. Be on the lookout for Alexa-powered bargains, too. Greg Greeley, the vice president of Amazon Prime worldwide, noted, "A deal may look weird to one person but be absolutely wonderful to someone else. We try to embrace that at Amazon with our massive collection."

How can I make the sale easier to shop?

As Kannon Yamada expertly details, you might erase Prime Day hassles if you:

  • Turn to Amazon's Gold Box page, which allows you to sort and filter deals by price and type
  • Install an app, such as Amazon Price Alert or the Amazon app (the latter can help you set up reminders for when a deal you're interested in starts)
  • Use a really simple syndication (RSS) feed or browser extension to receive and read alerts as Amazon updates its lists and/or prices

What alternatives to Prime Day do I have?

The 2015 Amazon Prime Day prompted a variety of stores--Target, Macy's, Best Buy, Vera Bradley, Bealls, Levis.com, and Sunglasshut.com, just to name a few--to offer their own sales. It's reasonable on the basis of this precedent to presume that businesses will respond similarly to the 2016 Prime Day. As an example, Walmart already has announced that you can get a free 30-day trial of its $49 ShippingPass service. Your best bet is to check the website of your favorite retailer for Tuesday sales, or to use options such as CamelCamelCamel and Honey to see if Prime Day prices truly are reasonable and competitive.

The bottom line

Amazon isn't the only option, especially considering there will be other opportunities for discounts through the year, but FOMO (fear of missing out) will definitely be in full effect. When in doubt, count it as all hype, give yourself time to cool down emotionally before you hit the Checkout button, and remember: Regardless of the retailer, don't buy something just because it's on sale and sort of meets your specifications--buy it because it's exactly what you were looking for and you need it!