Yesterday Amazon sought to celebrate its 20th anniversary with a huge blowout sale designed to rival the pre-Christmas purchasing binge that is Black Friday. “Step aside Black Friday, meet Prime Day”, they said, hoping people would use the occasion to sign up for their $99/year Prime membership in order to take advantage of “thousands of deals from sought-after devices and tools to popular toys and pet supplies.” They even sweetened the deal by giving non-members the option to try Prime free for a month (though they seem to do that often, as I have taken advantage of it previously.)
Unfortunately for Amazon, their hype was their own worst enemy. When customers discovered most of these deals were for things nobody really wanted or only discounted by tiny amounts, they took to various social media platforms to poke fun at Amazon’s #PrimeDayFail:
called "lightning deals" because you have better odds of getting stuck by actual lightning than getting something you want #PrimeDayFail
— Danielle (@joyfulkindness) July 16, 2015
IT IS WHAT I HAVE ALWAYS WANTED! pic.twitter.com/srcajDuHMD
— Bahroo (@AdmiralBahroo) July 15, 2015
— Nipun Sher (@Sherrif1c) July 15, 2015
And of course there was the real winner for the day, a 55 gallon barrel of lube:
— Mic Wright 🏳️🌈🌋🏴☠️ (@brokenbottleboy) July 15, 2015
Well yeah, it’s not really a party until somebody gets the lube out, and Amazon has a huge customer base to satisfy so a small tube just wouldn’t cut it.
Despite the giant jugs of lube, halfway through the day Amazon realized they were stuck in a tough spot, and they attempted to slip free of the mockery by issuing a desperate sounding statement, which, as Forbes pointed out, amounted to little more than them going the full Animal House:
Half way through Prime Day, a 24-hour bonanza on Wednesday that features thousands of heavily discounted items, many customers didn’t seem to be enthused with the selection of goods or price cuts and took to social media to express their dismay. In response, Amazon got defensive, uncharacteristically releasing an update during the sale to partially illustrate Prime Day’s impact, while characteristically shielding some figures to make it unclear of just how successful the event has been.
“Prime Day peak order rates have already surpassed 2014 Black Friday,” said Greg Greeley, vice president of Amazon Prime, in a statement. ”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. 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. And there are thousands more deals coming.”
Those numbers mean very little. Amazon declined to say what the actual peak order rate–defined as the highest number of orders per minute–really is. Is it the peak order rate bigger than Black Friday? Yes. By how much? Who knows?
Forbes added that those numbers gave no indication as to how the rest of the stuff on the site was selling and failed to take into account how much they had to spend on marketing to move those units compared to Black Friday. It also did nothing to reassure customers that items like TVs and other electronics made up the bulk of the things on sale as opposed to bunion regulators and detergent. They wouldn’t say how many new Prime members they got out of this either, which is similarly unhelpful in determining if this event was a success.
It is true that there were some decent deals for some decent items, like the list IGN put together, and Walmart did put up a competing sale, but this is a straight up marketing failure on Amazon’s part. If they had simply announced they were celebrating their birthday and that Prime customers should look for some extra sales, most of the Internet would’ve just wished them a happy birthday, bought the stuff they found interesting, and moved on. Instead, Amazon carried on about rivaling one of the biggest shopping days of the entire year and then dragged all the junk they had in their attic out on the lawn like nobody would notice the difference.
Now it’s possible they generated enough volume to make a small fortune or that they picked up enough Prime memberships to see significant benefits later, but either way it won’t be surprising if that barrel of lube shows up every time they try to advertise specials in the future.
Ed encouraged me to do a little shameless self promotion while I’m guest blogging here, so you can follow me on Twitter @crankytrex or read more of my writing at buzzpo.com.