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#PrimeDayFail Is A Lesson To Offline Retailers

Amazon’s blowout sale didn’t respect its customers, observers say. But it definitely got attention.

As e-commerce shoppers around the world were well aware, Wednesday, July 15 was Amazon Prime Day, the online retail juggernaut’s 20th anniversary celebration sale. While Amazon was able to claim that its Prime Day sales exceeded that of Black Friday, otherwise known as the biggest shopping day of the year and the kickoff to the holiday shopping season, the reaction to this particular special day from customers was universally celebratory.

Specifically, Amazon said that global order gains rose 266 percent over the same day last year (an otherwise ordinary shopping day to be sure) and 18 percent more than Black Friday 2014. Overall, customers from around the world ordered 34.4 million items.

Those numbers are certainly impressive, as Amazon considers making Prime Day an annual event. But as brick-and-mortar businesses, retail analysts sought to determine how meaningful Prime Day’s impact on commerce was, it’s also worth wondering just what sort of products were most popular. For example, in the US, purchases of the Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy was the best seller, while in France, oddly, the Monopoly board game was the big attraction. Green Smoothie mix (Japan), Logitech Keyboards (Italy), Croc sandals (Germany), and Huggies Diapers (Canada) were the most popular around the world, an indication that most offline retailers needn’t be too concerned about the challenge represented by Amazon’s sales blitz.

Some items on sale were not for everybody.
Some items on sale were not for everybody.

The running commentary across the Twittersphere also assuaged any fears offline businesses may have had:

It seems customers who had hoped for big-ticket items at ludicrous discounts were met with what most perceived as Amazon emptying out the odd, leftover items from their warehouses under the guise of a blowout sale. Some things that were heavily discounted were bizarre or niche items that the majority had no interest in, while popular items like the Nintendo 3DS were given small discounts like 6 percent off.

Customer Disconnect

But some names in the marketing and ecommerce industry found the silver lining in #PrimeDay — i.e., what not to do.

“Prime Day did so much to underwhelm visitors, that it’s something retailers should want to stay away from,” said Kurt Heinemann, CMO of analytics platform Reflektion. “It was like a giant clearance sale of unwanted inventory that few people found things that they interested in. Retailers should instead focus on treating their shoppers like individuals by helping them find what they are looking for and demonstrating a real understanding for their needs.”

It’s that clear disconnect between Amazon and the customers that had people feeling so frustrated. Many didn’t feel like valued customers but rather brainless consumers onto whom Amazon could slough their excess merchandise.

Prime Opportunity For Retailers

engage:bdr's Sydney Goldman
engage:bdr’s Sydney Goldman

Amazon’s loss could be other retailers’ gain, said Sydney Goldman, manager of Marketing and Communications for Los Angeles-based cross-device ad solutions provider engage:BDR.

“I think there is actually a big opportunity here for fast-acting retailers (both online and offline) to capitalize on the hype,” said Goldman. “Amazon clearly had much more demand than they could fulfill, and savvy marketers with competing inventory might advertise specials on the items that sold out the most quickly- something that could be easily culled from all the news coverage and social media postings surrounding user disappointment. This could be used as a hook to bring people into stores, or it could be used to quickly move inventory and make some fast sales. The key here is timing- so folks who are utilizing programmatic properly will, obviously, be the most successful.”

Amazon, the largest online retailer in the country, can stand a few losses in the wake of Prime Day. Smaller companies, with less of a buffer between them and bankruptcy, might not be so lucky. But by watching how Amazon succeeds and, occasionally, fails, other retailers can get a better sense of how best to attract, and ultimately keep, their customers.

About The Author
Daniel Parisi Daniel Parisi @daniel_parisi_

Daniel Parisi is a New York City-based writer and recent graduate of the University of Maryland. Daniel specializes in coverage of mobile payments, loyalty programs, and the Internet of Things.