retail news in context, analysis with attitude

There were a range of differing reactions to Amazon's Prime Day on Wednesday - designed to offer rolling promotions of limited assortment merchandise (about 2,000 SKUs in total) throughout the day, available only to its prime members as a way of celebrating the company's 20th birthday - but one thing was for sure: Amazon said it was so successful that it is going to celebrate Prime Day every year.

Amazon said that it "sold more units on Prime Day than the biggest Black Friday ever and had more new members try Prime worldwide than any single day in Amazon history.  Customers ordered 34.4 million items across Prime-eligible countries, breaking all Black Friday records with 398 items ordered per second. Prime Day was also a great savings day – members globally saved millions on deals. Customers ordered hundreds of thousands of Amazon devices – making it the largest device sales day ever worldwide."

Among the items sold on deal: "tens of thousands of Fire TV Sticks in one hour, making it the fastest-selling deal on an Amazon device ever," 56,000 Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy sets, 47,000 televisions, 51,000 Bose Headphones, and 12,000 Fifty Shades of Grey Unrated Edition on Blu-ray.

Now Time reports that many shoppers "came away feeling bitter, perhaps even betrayed. Instead of finding amazing prices on items they truly wanted, shoppers bashed Prime Day on social media because Amazon failed to deliver on the hype. If Prime Day wasn’t being described as a “crappy yard sale” overloaded with bizarre, random items, then observers were saying that the majority of the deals were underwhelming in terms of price. Still others complained out of frustration that the deals they actually did want disappeared before they had the chance to buy because quantities were so limited. And even before Prime Day arrived, there were grumbles because the sales were available only for subscribers to Amazon’s $99-per-year Prime service, not all shoppers."

Walmart, Time writes, which ran an online sale to compete with Amazon, may have come out looking better "because even if its 'Rollback' deals weren’t amazing, at least they didn’t disappear in 10 minutes, or even 24 hours."

The Washington Post writes that "branding experts say that the steady drumbeat of social media criticism" of Amazon's Prime Day promotion "should not be ignored, since it probably shows that a wide swath of would-be customers didn't have a good experience during Prime Day. Adobe Digital Index, which captured and assessed millions of mentions of the company on social media Wednesday, found that 50 percent of those mentions were related to 'sadness'."
KC's View:
One of the things that Amazon is really good at is learning from experience. I have no doubt that a lot of people found the Prime Day experience wanting ... but not nearly as many who found its Fire smart phone to be wanting. Amazon learns from these experiences, and tends to bounce back with better products and services the next time.

I also think that one of the ways in which Amazon probably had a better day than Walmart is that it added enormous amounts of data to its intelligence about Prime shoppers and what they want, how much they're willing to spend, and how they respond to specific promotions and price points. That's ann invaluable and actionable stuff, and Amazon will figure out how best to act on it.

I have to admit that except for all the news coverage, I sort of found Prime Day to be a bit of a snooze. There was one item I was sort of interested in, but it was sold out by the time I was ready to move ... and I never thought about ordering anything else all day. In a lot of ways, Prime Day was designed to appeal to the acquisitive ... and I just don't have that gene.