Amazon is now more than 24 hours into its 36 hour Prime Day event in the UK where, for the first time, members of its Prime membership scheme can access deals in a store as well as online.
But the retailer is reported to have been hit by outages that have cost it an estimated £195m.
Prime Day deals are available through Whole Foods Market branches in London for the first time following Amazon’s acquisition of the US natural food retailer last year. Shoppers at the stores can save money on “a selection of the high-quality natural and organic products they love across all London stores on Prime Day,” says Amazon.
In another link between online and town centre locations, the Amazon Treasure Truck will also be out and about at sites in12 UK towns and cities offering a deal on a Fitbit product. Shoppers buy it in the app before collecting it from the truck.
Around the world the shopping event, exclusive to members of the Amazon Prime subscription scheme, promises more than a million deals. In the UK it promises more than double the number of discounted products than it did last year.
Exclusive brand deals come from names including smart home technology company Arlo, home entertainment brand Anker, alongside offers of Maybelline beauty products and Thomas Sabo jewellery. Alexa voice assistants and other own-brand Amazon digital devices are also expected to sell well.
But a site outage after the sale launched yesterday is said to have caused problems for consumers. Lovethesales.com cited Downdetector.co.uk, showing a UK outage that started at around 8pm and continued until the early hours. Lovethesales.com says that this would have been an embarassing and costly start to Prime Day, costing it as much as £195m in lost UK sales. That’s based on projected UK sales of £1.17bn, according to Coresight Research, that would have been made at a rate of £541,666 a minute over the 36 hours of the sale. If 360 minutes – or six hours of that was lost to the outage, it would result in a £195m loss.
Antony Edwards, chief technology officer of performance monitoring and testing company Eggplant, said its systems detected an outage between 8.30pm last night and 3.30am today. “Initially,” said Edwards, “Amazon’s issue felt very like someone had submitted some code that was causing instability between different systems. My guess is that it was between the core application and the content distribution network. I would have expected Amazon could back out the change and get stability back within one to two hours, but it looks like that didn’t happen. Either they didn’t know what caused the issue (so their configuration management isn’t that great), or the offending issue caused a downstream tangle that they struggled to get back under control.
“I often go to technical meetings and hear, ’We want to be like Amazon, they release billions of times a day without any issues’. However, even Amazon is fallible when running at this speed. Release analytics would probably have prevented this problem. Alignment between production and testing is key.”
There’s also a question mark over whether Amazon’s Prime Day delivery operations will be affected by ongoing strikes at Amazon warehouses in Europe. Action is taking place at sites in Spain and Germany in response to what the strikers argue are poor working conditions. They are asking shoppers not to buy from Amazon for the duration of a strike that is set to last for 72 hours in Spain. (English language information here.)
In a statement, Amazon said: “Amazon is a fair and responsible employer. We believe in continuous improvement across our network and maintain an open and direct dialogue with associates. Amazon has invested over €15 billion EUR and created over 65,000 permanent jobs across Europe since 2010. These are good jobs with highly competitive pay, full benefits, and innovative training programs like Career Choice that pre-pays 95% of tuition for associates. We provide safe and positive working conditions, and encourage anyone to come see for themselves by taking a tour at one of our fulfillment centers.”
The wider retailer effect
The effect of Amazon Prime Day on other retailers has been detailed before. This year eBay is joining in with its own Sales Day that is pointedly available without the need to join a membership scheme. Amazon Prime Day is exclusive to members of its own £7.99 a month Prime membership scheme – although shoppers can use a free trial to take part. eBay says its exclusive deals are with brands from KitchenAid and Dyson to Apple and Samsung and include free shipping and a price promise that guarantees 110% of the eBay price. Currys is also running its own Prime Day rival event, while summer sales are ongoing at many online retailers.
But the event is likely to hit other bricks and mortar retailers, wants Andy Tow, managing director at the Retail Marketing Group. He says they risk missing out as a result of this and other online sales events. “The combination of low price and online convenience may seem unbeatable, and can force some retailers to adopt radical measures of their own,” he said. “For example, this year several U.S. stores, including Target and Walmart, have decided to match Prime Day deals in the hope of attracting more shoppers inside. However, physical stores should focus on their key strengths rather than trying to compete with online shops by lowering prices.
“We know that the main reason people go to stores is to touch, feel and try products – successful retailers focus on building a whole sensory experience around the products in order to create meaningful relationships with their customers. The key strategy for bricks and mortar retailers is therefore to engage as many of the senses as possible.”
Main image courtesy of Amazon
Graph courtesy of Eggplant