Amazon's (NASDAQ:AMZN) attempt to create a Black Friday-like shopping event for members of its Prime service appeared successful even though it disappointed a lot of customers.
The sale generated an impressive number of orders, but the experience left some shoppers unhappy. That led to a wave of negative hashtags filling social media, including #unhappyPrimeDay, #AmazonFail, and #PrimeDayFail.
It was perhaps a case of the online retailer overpromising and underdelivering. Invoking Black Friday brings up images of big-ticket items like televisions, computers, and other electronics. Those items were represented in the company's "lightning" deals, which were updated throughout the day, but they were buried under an ocean of accessories, household items, and other less-inspiring products.
Nobody goes out on Black Friday to save money on heart-friendly, low-dose aspirin or everyday women's underwear, but those items were well represented on Prime Day. Perhaps most damning of all, when many of the hyped electronic items were released as deals, they sold out in an instant.
Amazon seems happy
While Prime Day set off an enormous amount of negative social-media buzz it still generated a lot of sales for Amazon. The company said via a press release issued during the sale that members shopped at "record rates" with Prime Day peak-order rates surpassing Black Friday 2014.
"Prime members have already bought tens of thousands of Fire TV Sticks, 35,000 Lord of the Rings Blu-Ray sets, 28,000 Rubbermaid sets, and 4,000 Echo devices in 15 minutes," Prime Vice President Greg Greeley said. "The Kate Spade purse was gone in less than a minute. We also sold 1,200 of the $999 TVs in less than 10 minutes."
By those standards Prime Day was a success, but that did not stop people from complaining about the merchandise being offered.
Remember when Peppermint Patty went to Charlie Brown's house expecting turkey, but got popcorn and toast? Its kinda like that! #PrimeDayFail— RMC62970 (@rcarlson62970) July 16, 2015
A personal experience
I'm a Prime member and an avid Amazon shopper who rarely goes a week without buying something from the online retailer. I was excited for Prime Day and hoped to score a low-priced television.
In order to do that, I got online at around 7 a.m. EST and scrolled through the electronics deals that had already passed. Seeing that I had not missed either television I saw on the presale list, I checked the future deals (and saw nothing I wanted), and checked back every 20 minutes or so -- a bit disruptive to my workflow, but worth it if I could score a great deal.
When a 32-inch, off-brand TV for under $100 did appear as a deal later in the day, I was online as the countdown clock ticked down to zero and the sale went live. I hit the "add to cart" button and learned pretty quickly that not only had the set sold out, the waitlist to get one at a later date had filled as well.
I have no idea if the company sold one TV or 50,000, but I did not get one despite hours of vigilance and attempting the purchase at the first possible moment.
called "lightning deals" because you have better odds of getting stuck by actual lightning than getting something you want #PrimeDayFail— Danielle (@tiny_seeds) July 16, 2015
This is still good for Amazon
While there were clearly kinks, and people were obviously upset at the speed with which deals sold out and the selection of merchandise, Fayez Mohamood, CEO of Bluecore, an automated email marketing company, told The Fool via email that Prime Day will drive sales and conversions for the company moving forward:
This blip of negative PR may not have been part of the marketing plan, but the reality is Amazon will exit Prime Day with more Prime customers than when it started. And equally or more importantly, for the 80+% of customers who don't end up making a purchase on Prime day after searching, browsing and adding to cart, they will have rich and recent behavioral data on those users to determine how to market and monetize them over the next 6-12 months. That data is worth gold in the eCommerce world and Amazon is the gold standard in monetizing against this behavioral data days, weeks and months after it is initially captured.
It was not a home run, and it may have harmed Amazon's relationship with some of its best customers, but Prime Day likely helped the company overall.
Where does Amazon go from here?
It is clear that Prime Day is being positioned to become an annual event. And for fiscal 2015, the huge sale will drive additional momentum for the company going into the third quarter. Just last week, Amazon shares popped nearly 10% following its second quarter earnings release, toppling Wall Street estimates on both the top and bottom lines. Investors should have plenty more to look forward to with this company.