Primed to shop: What you need to know about Amazon's Prime Day

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Have you been checking out all the sales today? It is officially Amazon's Prime Day, but other retailers are matching and beating those deals.

Members of Amazon's Prime program, which offers users deals on shipping and other benefits, are celebrating Amazon's once-a-year blowout sale. Last year's Prime Day brought in $3.2 billion. This year, analysts are pegging sales at close to $5 billion. Prime Day has been so successful last year Amazon's website crashed, and this year the mega-sale was turned into a two day extravaganza on July 15 and July 16.

There is a wide variety of items for sale, but consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow says this is really just the start of Back-To-School Shopping.

"Amazon, wanting to get ahead of other retailers, started their prime day in July. The other retailers just climbed on board too, so this really is the start of the Back-To-School shopping season," says Yarrow.

The other biggest shopping holidays are Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving) and Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving, when most people are back at work), which lengthened the holiday buying season. Now Amazon has done the same with Back-To-School shopping. "The fact that this is kicking off the Back-To-School shopping season is really central to success of Prime, but the other thing they are great at is instilling fear. So what we get is the fear that we are going to miss out," Yarrow says.

Yarrow illustrates her point by noting the countdown clocks that are all over Amazon's website. Every few minutes new items go on sale and most of them come with a countdown clock with an expiration time. The Prime Day sale ends when? You can't miss it -- and it creates similar consumer stresses as auctions. Time is running out, there are only so many, and you are in a competition. Yarrow calls that "FOMO," or "fear of missing out."

"If we don't buy it now, it is going to be way more expensive or the fear that someone else will buy it and it won't be left for us," Yarrow says.

Amazon knows how to game consumer behavior. If you order on Alexa, you get extra discounts, and get to buy things before other people. If you try some of their own in home shopping services, you get a 20 percent discount. In effect, they're training shoppers to stick with Amazon products. So sure, Amazon is trying to sell you stuff... But not just today. Prime Day is a relationship building tool.

With so much going on, Nerdwallet says consumers need a system to get in on the very best deals. "Be smart about your purchases, make a list in advance of items you want to target, set alerts, and install browser extensions so you can track prices easily across multiple websites and make sure that you're getting the best deal," says Nerwallet's Kelsey Sheehy.

Amazon's deals are available to Prime members only. A subscription is $119 a year, but there is a workaround for those who are not members. You can sign up for a free one month trial... just remember to cancel before you are charged.

You can make the deal even sweeter by using your purchasing power to give to charity. Buy through Amazon's "Smile" program, and a half of one percent of the purchase price of eligible products will be sent to a charity you chose. You must sign up in advance and use the Smile checkout.

For shoppers looking to save, prices on the Amazon website suggest the deals hover around 30-percent off, but even deeper discounts can be found on many items. 7 On Your side has been tracking a market basket of products to see if real deals are being offered and the answer is: yes, the products we tracked were actually on sale.

Here's the price breakdown on the products we tracked.

KitchenAid 5-Qt. Artisan Design Series with Glass Bowl
Original Amazon price: $459.99
Prime Day price: $239.99
Target: $239.99
Best Buy: $239.99
Bed Bath and Beyond: $239.99
Note: Throughout the first day of Prime Day, Amazon competitors Target, Best Buy, and Bed Bath & Beyond all lowered their KitchenAid prices to match Amazon's sale price.

ILIFE V3s Pro Robotic Vacuum
Original Amazon price: $159.99
Prime Day price: $119.99
Smart Home Gadgets: $199.99
Sears: $202.87

Apple Watch Series 3 (GPS + Cellular, 38mm)
Original Amazon price: $379.00
Prime Day price: $229.00
Target: $379.99
Best Buy: $379.99
Apple: $279.00

Toshiba 32-inch 720p HD Smart LED TV - Fire TV Edition
Original Amazon price: $179.99
Prime Day price: $99.99
Best Buy: $139.99

Bose SoundLink around-ear wireless headphones
Original Amazon price: $229.00
Prime Day price: $159.00
Target: $159.99
Best Buy: $159.99
Walmart: $159.99

Razor E100 Glow Electric Scooter
Original Amazon price: $169.99
Prime Day price: $98.49
Walmart: $98.00
Razor.com: $169.99
Kohl's: $152.99

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

Copyright © 2019 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.