Now into its fourth year, Amazon’s annual shopping event seems to have cemented itself in consumer calendars. Beneath the surface, however, cracks are beginning to appear with workforces across Europe taking industrial action and consumer groups including Which? questioning the authenticity of deals.
Prime Day has succeeded thus far by playing off the otherwise slow time of year through the start of the school summer holidays, psychologists have pointed to how the injection of uncertainty and implied scarcity makes these summertime sales so effective.
However, this year Amazon changed up the format somewhat, pushing for a 36-hour sale. Co-ordinated across the globe, thousands of staff at warehouses in Germany declared they would walk out to demand better conditions, joining those taking action in Spain and Poland.
In tandem, Which? challenged the marketplace’s assumed transparency, pointing out promoted goods could be bought more cheaply outside the promotion period. Other consumer groups have questioned whether targeted sales messages on people’s mobile phones should be allowed to continue unabated.
With supply lines potentially under strain and the customer experience in jeopardy, this could be a decisive moment for other online retailers to deliver on the surging demand for brands.
Amazon cannot act alone
Recent research commissioned by Bazaarvoice showed that not only did rival retailer traffic increase on Prime Day, the number of orders increases by as much as 38% too.
Several brands and retailers have announced their own “Black Friday in July” sales to provide compelling savings and sales for consumers during the same timeframe. eBay, for instance, says it’s offering discounts on thousands of electronics, home goods, fashion and sports products from brands including Apple, Samsung, Adidas and Dyson.
Importantly, these retailers do not just serve as competition to Amazon; they are valuable alternatives and damage mitigators when things go wrong.
On Monday, many Amazon customers reported that the site had crashed, showing them only an error message that read: “sorry, something went wrong on our end”. The issues centred on the US but occurred on other continents too, putting shoppers into the uncomfortable position of waiting to see if this had cost them a deal entirely.
Even where consumers still choose to wait and make a purchase at the same marketplace, in reality, people often shop at multiple stores before making their final decision. In fact, 76% of Prime Day shoppers visit other major online stores to research products and read ratings and reviews before making their ultimate purchase decisions.
By offering up sales and promotions of their own, these rival retailers have an opportunity to ensure customers receive the best value, aren’t left out in the cold and can drive revenue through their business.
Customer confidence in crisis?
During busy online shopping days like Prime Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, many consumers can also be overwhelmed. Not least when the headlines are filled with consumer group warnings about fake deals.
The key to a great experience is providing the same sense of certainty consumers have come to expect from online marketplaces on a day-to-day basis. The availability of ratings and reviews across wider retail channels is essential in informing and influencing purchase decisions. Similarly, the Q&A function on product pages can share the solutions to the questions where customers need immediate answers.
It is also important to bear in mind the power of the high street. Customers see the benefit of visiting physical stores – they can see, touch and try on products first-hand and won’t have to wait for or pay for shipping. The online world can power this with coupons and promotions consumers can take with them in-store.
By providing a viable alternative on a major sales day, other retailers can begin to claim larger swathes of the traffic Amazon has generated but struggles to serve. As a sector, it is time to acknowledge how the ecosystem intrinsically links retailers and brands together into the service of the customer.
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