In my house, we’re big on countdowns. In fact, most of the real estate on the small dry erase board I bought to post reminders like “take out recycling” or “return library books” is occupied by a number. Whether it’s a major holiday, like Christmas or my twins’ birthday, or an event (such as our upcoming vacation to the Outer Banks), we’re always counting down the days to something.
For the past few weeks, however, it wasn’t the kids who watched intently as the numbers dwindled; it was my husband and me.
The event? Amazon Prime Day. (In our defense, even the site itself had a countdown — it was impossible not to get excited.)
Prime Day is like Black Friday, only without the pushing, shoving, parking wars, and 3 a.m. wakeups that deter many individuals, including myself. Plus, unlike holiday shopping, Prime shopping is about buying things you actually need, but have hesitated to purchase due to the price tag. It’s an opportunity to catapult items that have waited patiently in the “saved” queue into the shopping cart.
It’s a magical time.
Sound like a bit of an overreaction? Not when you need to purchase four new booster seats (two kids, two cars) and can save more than $100. For my friends with multiple children under the age of three, the diaper discount alone is cause for celebration.
Just minutes into the scheduled 3 p.m. EDT start on Monday, July 16, a series of glitches caused outages both on the desktop and mobile versions of Amazon. For many shoppers, instead of the excitement they expected to feel upon scoring a robot vacuum cleaner or InstantPot for half the regular price, they felt frustration — and confusion. Instead of being directed to the checkout page, they received a 404 error message (which, by the way, included a photo of one of 40 employee-owned dogs).
Amazon, it seemed, was not ready for Prime time. The jokes wrote themselves, and within minutes, #AmazonPrimeDayFail was trending. Here’s a sampling of the reaction on Twitter:
- @KeseSmith: One minute into #AmazonPrimeDay and the website is already down. If only Amazon had known this day was coming….
- @cpclemens: I’m saving a lot of money today with #AmazonPrimeDay by not buying things.
- @brenfayez: #AmazonPrimeDay good thing you raised our prime membership prices. I hope it wasn’t to cover the cost of preventing your site from crashing.
- @janineannett: Next time I screw something up, I’ll just show someone a cute picture of my dog.
- @brendaldickey: Amazon is hiring! All network maintenance team positions.
Ouch. With so much negatively swirling around the social media sphere, one would think sales would’ve taken a massive hit.
They didn’t. Although Amazon did suffer a loss of between $90 and $99 million, according to expert estimates, it pales in comparison to what the retail giant earned. According to the company (which remains tight-lipped when it comes to specific figures), Prime members worldwide purchased more than 100 million products during the event. According to CNBC, Prime Day sales were up nearly 90 percent during the first 12 hours of the event compared with 2017, putting the projected aim of at least $3.6 billion within reach.
If you’re not impressed, that makes one of us.
And although there are myriad takeaways from this — or really any news item relating to Amazon, one of the most talked-about companies in the world — here’s what I learned from the Prime Day Fail.
- If the product you’re offering is good enough, and the company’s reputation is strong enough, one mistake (or even one series of glitches) isn’t going to bring down the whole house of cards. Consumers were confident that the problem would be resolved, and it was, within a short period of time. Plus, many people believe it’s the best offering out there, and it’s going to take more than what happened to make them leave free two-day shipping behind.
- An event as successful as Prime Day makes other retailers up their game. Target and JC Penney were among the many companies to offer similar promotions, with the former reporting Monday as its “highest single day of traffic and sales of 2018.”
- In the event of an error, deflect. Amazon did this brilliantly with the dog photos (#AmazonPrimeDogs took on a life of its own). Some consumers loved seeing the pups, some hated it. What mattered is that Amazon was able to control the message by making it just as much about “tail” as it was about “fail.”
- Cloud is here to stay (something that people like David Chou have been saying for years). On Monday, Walmart announced it was partnering with Microsoft on “a broad set of cloud innovation projects.” In other words, game on.
For almost any other organization, a $90 million loss would be catastrophic. But part of what separates Amazon from the pack is that the company is constantly tweaking. Constantly pushing the envelope. Constantly evolving. There is no resting on your laurels, only finding ways to create a better consumer experience.
If you can do that, even a disaster like Prime Day won’t leave you in the dog house for long.