Amazon's Record-Breaking Holiday: What You Should Know

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The holiday quarter is by far Amazon.com's (NASDAQ: AMZN) most important quarter every year. In 2017, for instance, the e-commerce company's fourth-quarter sales accounted for 34% of full-year sales. Given the quarter's outsize importance to Amazon's annual financial results, it's no surprise that shares sank when management provided weaker-than-expected guidance for the period.

But could Amazon be faring better than its guidance for the period suggested? From the tone of a Dec. 26 press release from the company, it's possible. The company just wrapped up a "record-breaking" holiday season, Amazon said on Wednesday.

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Here's a look at the details from Amazon's update on its holiday season.

A record-breaking holiday

"Amazon today announced a record-breaking holiday season thanks to its customers all around the world," the company said in its press release, "with more items ordered worldwide than ever before." Unfortunately, Amazon doesn't break down exactly what it considers to be its "holiday season." Nevertheless, it's encouraging to know that sales were at a record high for this unspecified period.

In November, Amazon also said that it achieved record-breaking sales over the Turkey 5, or the five shopping days starting with Thanksgiving and continuing through Cyber Monday. Amazon's "holiday season" likely includes these five shopping days and extends through Christmas.

Prime membership is surging

Amazon is known for keeping its total number of Prime members secret. And the Dec. 26 update didn't help clear up how many of these paying members the company has. But Amazon did say that "tens of millions of people" started free Prime trials or paid Prime memberships during the holiday season.

Sales of Amazon-branded devices were higher

It was a record holiday for Amazon devices, with millions more sold this holiday season compared to last holiday season, the company said. The best-selling Amazon devices during the holiday were the company's new Echo Dot, Fire TV Stick 4K with the Alexa Voice Remote, and Echo.

Amazon also said it sold millions of its Amazon Fire TV, Fire Tablet, and Kindle products during the holiday season.

Alexa was put to work

Amazon's smart voice assistant, Alexa, was used far more this holiday season compared to last holiday season.

During this year's holiday season, the voice assistant:

  • Helped users stream hundreds of millions of hours of music
  • Was used to turn on holiday lights tens of millions of times
  • Delivered eight times as many reminders compared with last holiday season
  • Set more than 100 million timers
  • Helped with three times as many user requests for recipes than last holiday season

None of these details can confirm Amazon is poised to deliver better-than-expected sales in its fourth quarter. But it's encouraging to get an optimistic update from the company.

When Amazon reported its third-quarter results, management guided for fourth-quarter net sales to be between $66.5 billion to $72.5 billion, up 10% to 20% compared with sales in the fourth quarter of 2017.

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John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Daniel Sparks owns shares of Amazon. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Amazon. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.