EDITORIAL Prime Day – pleasure or pain?

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There were strikes. There were web service outages. There were calls for a boycott because of poor working conditions. There were still broken records. But there is a whiff of disappointment around this year’s Amazon Prime Day.

First, the stats. According to Amazon, Prime members made 100 million purchases over the 36 hours of the event and spent $1 billion (£760 million) directly with Amazon and with its partners.

According to Amazon’s own figures, Prime Day saw a “record number” of Prime members across 17 countries including first-time subscribers in Australia, Singapore, the Netherlands and Luxembourg buying worldwide bestsellers including Fire TV Stick, Alexa Voice Remote and Echo Dot. The second day saw the biggest sales for smart-home devices in Amazon’s history, with over a million devices sold. Its inaugural Whole Food Market Prime Day deals, with strawberries the biggest seller.

Best-selling categories included toys, beauty, PCs and computer accessories as well as apparel and kitchen products.

But there were problems aplenty. The site crashed after the sale launched. Lovethesales.com cited Downdetector.co.uk, showing a UK outage that started at around 8pm and continued until the early hours. Downdetector.co.uk displayed 722 reported problems from shoppers of which logging-in (57%) to the website (26%) and checking-out (15%) were the most common, with customer’s complaints saying that “Amazon isn’t accepting any calls to their number.” Lovethesales.com says that this would have been an embarrassing and costly start to Prime Day, costing Amazon as much as £195m in lost UK sales.

Prime Day also saw strikes in Spain and Germany. Strikers called for better workers’ rights and asked shoppers to boycott the marketplace.

The halo

The news of strikes and severe outages prompted some of the most negative headlines about Amazon and Prime Day since its inception in 2014 – and the headlines have tended to detract from the impact the event has actually had.

While Amazon and its merchants have hit the billion dollar mark, the event has also had a staggeringly good halo effect on other retailers.

UK retailers showed a 13% uplift in sales across high-performing computing and high-tech products, with sales surging by 22% during Prime Day and browsing 17% ahead, according to data from Criteo.

Of course, the World Cup and the hot weather helped with that – there has been a 17% surge in sales of sports wear over the summer – but Amazon’s own outage has been seen by many as a boon to the wider retail industry.

Amazon Prime Day gets people in the mood for shopping and, while they naturally head to Amazon first, they also head to Google – and here is where exception service levels, great SEO and the right bargains on Prime Day can lead to many retailers basking in the halo.

Retailers that optimise for mobile and get their online SEO working well with Google are going to mop up around Prime Day. Often people are searching for things not just searching for what is on offer (not all, I realise that is exactly what some people do on Prime Day, of course).

But getting seen on Prime Day can be a challenge. The outage of Amazon servers will have done wonders for non-Amazon retailers, while the growing feeling of dissatisfaction with Amazon working conditions is starting to impact a very small minority of shoppers – and from tiny acorns etc…

I doubt Amazon is worried about this or the strikes. It will be fuming about the outages, but it can also point to how it still led to sales and make itself look good.

What is perhaps more troubling to Amazon is that other massive retailers are Increasingly, in too. eBay effectively ran its own Prime Day event during Prime Day, while pretty much every other retailer out there was on discount. Sure, there is enough pie for everyone, but everyone gets a smaller slice. It will be interesting to see what Amazon does to combat this around Black Friday as a marker for what next year’s Prime Day might look like – and what your Prime Day retail strategy will look like too.

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