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EDITORIAL Prime Day has a lack of experience… but so what?

Amazon: delivery a perfunctory services on Prime Day – but that's probably enough for most shoppers

Amazon: delivery a perfunctory services on Prime Day – but that's probably enough for most shoppers

Prime Day has been, on the face of it, a massive success for Amazon and for many other retailers caught in the halo. The two day sales frenzy has created a much needed new ‘peak’ right when things usually hit the doldrums. Amazon sells shed loads of gear, other retails sell shed loads of gear and, despite worries about endless discounting, everyone’s happy.

However, Prime Day 2019 has given many industry watchers pause for thought. In the age of experience retailing and shoppers who demand ever-more fancy – yet super simple – ways to interact and buy, Prime Day is an anachronistic celebration of noughties retail: pile ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap, smash-and-grab sales frenzy.

Like an online version of the original Black Friday sales, where shoppers queued overnight then trampled over each other to get to the bargains when the doors opened, Amazon Prime Day has as much finesse as a Donald Trump’s notes on an ambassador.

Participating in Amazon Prime day as a shopper is a bun fight. While the site didn’t crash per se, the app had terrible trouble – here in the UK at least – at loading up and it took me way longer than usual to buy things.

The layout of the goods on sale and enticement to buy was also sorely lacking. It was pretty much a list of screaming “LOOK! STUFF! CHEAP! NOW!”.

Delivery, too, suffered with the runaway success of Prime Day stretching next day delivery to the max. I got my stuff next day, but not until almost 10pm.

Taken together, many retail experts feel that Amazon Prime Day is in need of a revamp, looking to Alibaba’s Single’s Day as the example of what a ‘modern’ peak day should look like. It has tie ins with stores, uses all channels to drum up business, puts on shows and, crucially, generates more revenue.

But is this really of any interest to the shoppers? I fear that, while there is a point to the argument that, in the age of experience, Prime Day looks like a Nokia at an Apple convention, the shoppers really don’t mind. I myself was in the mood to buy a load of disparate – and worryingly middle-aged – items (I am now the proud owner of a new hose… and yes I was excited when I unboxed it) and all I wanted was a good price, next day delivery and for the app to work as quickly as possible.

I wasn’t in the market for an experience at that point.

I can see, however, that for other retailers trying to compete with Amazon – something of an oxymoron… should it be compete despite Amazon; alongside to Amazon? – they need to have something they can offer customer that Amazon can’t. I can see that experience, rapid delivery, something unique all have their attractions, but if you want a hose or any other utilitarian things that Amazon does so well, experience doesn’t matter.

And this is part of a wider problem. Turning to experiences to create a differentiator is the way to go, but it won’t make you stand out among all the other players on the field. To do that you need to keep evolving and changing – and that is difficult and costly business.

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