At the very least, Amazon’s Prime Day sale shows that the retail behemoth can scare its competitors into taking action — even if it wasn’t able to please many of its customers with the deals offered during this made-up sales holiday.
Amazon promised thousands of deals rolled out over the course of the day and night. But many social media users took to Twitter to say they were underwhelmed by Amazon’s hyped-up offers.
However, overall, the sale “was successful in driving competitive response across the e-commerce space,” said Traci Gregorski, vice president of marketing at research firm Market Track. “And based on that response it appears that they have created a new shopping event where one did not exist previously.”
Amazon wouldn’t release sales figures. But as of Wednesday afternoon, the number of orders per minute on Prime Day “far surpasses Black Friday,” said company spokeswoman Julie Law.
The sale, open only to Prime members, launched at 12:01 a.m. Pacific time on Wednesday and ran for 24 hours.
Prime is Amazon’s $99 membership service, which gives users free two-day shipping on eligible purchases and access to video and music streaming as well as an online library of e-books.
The company would not provide detailed figures, instead giving examples of specific sales successes, such as saying a Kate Spade purse sold out in less than a minute and that 1,200 of $999 TVs sold out in less than 10 minutes.
The sale — in honor of the retail site’s 20th anniversary — occurred during an otherwise sleepy shopping period in the dead of summer, and competitors such as Walmart and Best Buy offered online sales of their own in direct response. Both retailers took jabs at Amazon for offering a sale for Prime members only.
Walmart.com President and CEO Fernando Madeira posted on Walmart’s blog that “some retailers are charging $100 to get access to a sale. But the idea of asking customers to pay extra in order to save money just doesn’t add up for us.”
Analysts said Amazon should get an uptick in new subscribers to its Prime shipping and subscription service as well as a tsunami of new consumer data collected.
Yet, not all shoppers who jumped on the Amazon event were happy with the results.
Many expressed their disappointment over the deals offered during Prime Day on social media.
On Twitter, disgruntled users compared the event to a bad garage sale and made fun of the seemingly random assortment of discounted merchandise. The early deals even had some customers questioning whether their Prime membership was worth the $99 price tag, and others saying they’d be shopping with rival Walmart, which was hosting its own sale, instead.
Some of the items people poked fun at, however, did sell out.
“Customers want vitamins and Rubbermaid as much as they want TVs and headphones,” Law said.
The massive sale also allowed the retailer to cull numerous data points on users, said Fayez Mohamood, CEO of Bluecore, an email marketing company that has worked with retailers including Sur La Table and Rue La La. The information can then be used, among other things, to better target individual consumers and push future purchases.
“It’s a classic discounting paradigm of retail,” he says. “You give a discount to acquire a customer, and then you make that value up over time.”
It was also likely a strategy to test system capabilities during peak traffic, says Steve Osburn, director in the retail and consumer products practice at consultancy Kurt Salmon.
“One of the things that you always do to prepare for peak is you create a mock peak where you’re trying to get really high volumes,” he says. And because of Amazon’s size, “they almost have to create one of the biggest shipping days of the year. Anything less than that isn’t really a good test.”
Both Walmart and Best Buy declined to share sales numbers for their events this week.
Prime Day also put Amazon’s free shipping and subscription video- and music-streaming service, Prime, in front of new customers amid increasing competition from Walmart, which is testing its own Prime-like shipping-only service this summer (it costs $50 a year to Amazon’s $99).
Law declined to say how many new Prime members Amazon — the No. 1 Internet retailer, according to the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide — acquired leading up to or on the day of the sale.
On Twitter, some customers were saying they’d dump their Prime membership before the trial ended.
While its 20th birthday may have been one of the reasons for Prime Day, the company has pushed the Black Friday angle more than the anniversary.
“That does lead me to think they may make this an annual event,” says Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, a vice president and principal analyst with Forrester Research. “And it also begs the question if they’ll do something similar to this again during Thanksgiving this year.”
Follow USA TODAY reporter Hadley Malcolm on Twitter @hadleypdxdc, and follow USA TODAY reporter Elizabeth Weise on Twitter @eweise.
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