Not Ready for Prime Time: Amazon #PrimeDay Sale Disappoints

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Amazon Prime Day deals July 15, 2015

In retrospect, it was hard to live up to all the hype. Amazon got lousy customer reviews for its much-ballyhooed #PrimeDay sales event on Wednesday, with unhappy Prime subscribers shellacking the online giant for a narrow menu of offerings, slim inventories and an underwhelming selection after many days of promising that the global deals on offer for one day only would blow the socks off of Black Friday.

Amazon Prime promise

Of course, it was all a big promotion to drive subscriptions for Amazon Prime. Yet it was hard to believe that, as up to the eyeballs as Amazon is in data, they could have mishandled #PrimeDay — created to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of Amazon, which actually took place on July 6 — on the basis of what they know about consumer behavior and expectations.

According to Amazon’s statement via Adweek, Amazon claimed before the 14-hour sale was over that it had already surpassed Black Friday sales: “Prime Day peak order rates have already surpassed 2014 Black Friday. Prime members have bought tens of thousands of Fire TV Sticks, 35,000 Lord of the Rings Blu-Ray sets, 28,000 Rubbermaid sets, and 4,000 Echos in 15 minutes. The Kate Spade purse was gone in less than a minute. The 1.2K of $999 TVs sold out in less than 10 minutes and there are thousands more deals coming. New deals start every ten minutes until late tonight.”

So why all the social media griping? Maybe it was just a case of misunderstanding that the middle of July is a lousy period for retailing in general, and not only for bricks-and-mortar stores, in the dog days of summer before back-to-school shopping revs up.

Amazon Prime Day

And comparing the promised sales to Black Friday-level deals raised hopes. Black Friday doesn’t need as much hype because consumers already are “primed” to shop on the day after American Thanksgiving, one of the biggest days for retailers all year and a make-or-break during the holidays.

Amazon Prime Day lightning deals

But Amazon’s Black Friday deals were certainly a lot better than the deals on offer for its #PrimeDay birthday celebration sales, which were random and underwhelming as they were updated every 10 minutes, and (no surprise) widely mocked and derided on Twitter and beyond.

Early social media returns on the 24-hour-long sale for members of the Prime free-shipping service were bitingly negative, with the hashtags #PrimeFail and #AmazonFail quickly making the rounds.

One customer tweeted that #PrimeDay was more like April Fool’s Day than Black Friday. Another complained about “the worst sale ever on Amazon. A bunch of crap no one wants that still sold out in seconds.”

“Ridiculously disappointed with #AmazonPrimeDay,” tweeted Jessica Keller, a writer of Young Adult fiction. “Everything is either sold out or junk that no one wants. Way to thank your #prime customers!” Greg Anderson tweeted, “#PrimeDay is like when your friend claims he’s throwing an epic party but you show up and there’s only a 6-pack and a bowl of Cheetos.”

Amazon Prime Day sale

Amazon issued a mid-sale statement addressing complaints that not enough desired products were being discounted. “We have years of experience with these types of events and we stagger the deals to make sure the fun will last through tonight.” One problem may be how it defines “fun.” Another was Amazon’s Prime Day landing page interface, with a confusing mix of promotions that buried the lightning deals (flash sales), which were promoted on a countdown-style time-staggered basis.

Amazon Prime Day sale

There was one really impressive sale item, in the eyes of some wags: Prime’s deal on a 55-gallon container of Passion water-based lubricant for about $1,000, a huge discount on a massive quantity that beggared belief.

It certainly got the attention of rival retailers including Walmart, Target and Best Buy, which all decided to counter Amazon’s threatened takeover of retailing today with their own deep online discounts.

Maybe Amazon decision-makers just lost their head on this one, seeing as how they’re hobnobbing with Hollywood executives and movie stars more and more as they get traction for Amazon Studios, whose accomplishments already include the hit series Transparent starring Jeffrey Tambor as a transgender woman coming out and hiring director Spike Lee for its first original movie, Chiraq.

Reportedly, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is very hands-on about what moves Amazon Studios should make. Maybe he needs to pay a little visit to whomever was delegated to make the decisions about #PrimeDay.

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