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Amazon Prime Day: What Can Retailers Learn?


Another July, another Amazon Prime Day. With the e-tail leader already confirming this retail “holiday” will be back for a third time next July, let’s take a look back at the 2016 edition.

While a lot went well for Amazon during Prime Day this year, we may as well start with the biggest blunder. Namely, the widespread checkout issues that occurred during the morning hours. A glitch caused some U.S. and U.K. shoppers to have difficulties loading items into their shopping carts and/or making purchases.

Amazon seemed to have cleared the problem up by mid-day, and overall results suggest these issues did not put in major dent in Prime Day’s success. However, heavy consumer complaining on Twitter and a lot of real-time negative media coverage were surely not what Amazon had been planning for in the opening hours of its biggest sales day of the year.

This problem once again illustrates that unlike banking, in retail there is no such thing as “too big to fail.” In 2015, Black Friday outages affected major retailers including Walmart, Neiman Marcus and Newegg. Target has also experienced difficulties handling online traffic spikes. If you haven’t already begun reinforcing your e-commerce infrastructure for the coming holiday season, Prime Day should be all the motivation you need.

On the plus side, Amazon had its biggest sales day ever, beating the first Prime Day in July 2015. The retailer released some global highlights of the day’s performance, including more than 2 million toys and 1 million shoes sold, as well as more than 90,000 TVs. The range and sheer number of products purchased on Prime Day is a clear message that despite the store’s continued primacy as a consumer touchpoint, shoppers are also very receptive to pure-play online retail.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have a massive inventory, low prices and guaranteed two-day delivery. Speaking of which, only members of Amazon’s paid Prime loyalty service could participate in the day’s deals. Amazon offered free 30-day trial memberships special for the event, but it is still clear consumers are willing to go through the hassle of signing up for something and sharing personal information if they see enough of a reward.

Another key data point is that orders on the Amazon app more than doubled 2015 Prime Day mobile app orders. This explosive growth mirrors the rapid increase in mobile share of digital commerce. M-commerce will only continue to become a more important driver of e-commerce success in the years ahead. Also it’s worth noting that shoppers were willing to use the Amazon app, required for mobile Prime purchases, when there was a clear advantage to using the app as opposed to mobile browser.

Finally, Amazon wasn’t even the only retailer to see a surge in online sales during Prime Day. Walmart and other retailers that countered Prime Day with their own e-commerce events were also reported to have experienced healthy bumps in Internet business July 12. No retailer could sustainably provide Prime Day-type deals and services throughout the year, but clearly with the right incentives shoppers will flock online, even outside the holiday season.

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