Despite glitches, Amazon Prime Day 2018 manages another record

Ben Fox Rubin/Techhnews

When Amazon launched its much-hyped Prime Day sale Monday, it was left in the unenviable position of offering a broken website and app that redirected customers to pictures of dogs on its error pages. For many shoppers, problems persisted well into that night.

While it was likely the most botched opening in the sale’s four years, the screw-up didn’t change the expected final outcome: a third record sale in a row. Amazon said Wednesday that this year’s Prime Day surpassed all prior sales records in the e-commerce giant’s two-decade history, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday. For apples-to-apples comparisons, that record was weighed against other 36-hour periods. since the sale this year was a day and a half.

Members worldwide ordered over 100 million products. Best-sellers this year were Amazon’s own devices: the Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote and Echo Dot.

However, Amazon offers often vague information on its businesses, so avoided specifying how big the sale was. It did mention that small and medium-sized businesses selling on Amazon exceeded $1 billion in sales. Coresight Research estimated shoppers would spend $3.4 billion on Prime Day this year, up more than 40 percent from the year earlier.

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Amazon trumpeted this year’s Prime Day as a financial success, but it may face reputational damage for the fumbled execution in a variety of ways going forward. Customers may view the company’s popular website as less reliable and cloud-computing clients may see Amazon Web Services — which runs — as flawed.

On the other hand, it’s possible customers will quickly forget about these problems, especially if Amazon avoids a repeat during the holiday season.

“People will forget about it. It’s more something that the news will repeat than people will care about,” said Victor Rosenman, CEO of Feedvisor, a software provider for Amazon sellers.

One thing seems certain: Despite the shaky opening, Prime Day is likely to return for a fifth year, hopefully with fewer glitches. After all, July tends to be a slow month in retail but Prime Day has managed to change that.

Monday’s problems weren’t the first time that Amazon experienced a notable website error during Prime Day. In 2016, a computer glitch prevented people from checking out their purchases online in the early hours of the sale.

Perhaps the most memorable part of this year’s sale came from the cute dogs. The company populates its error pages with pictures of some of its employees’ dogs. While those pages aren’t new, Prime Day made these dogs temporarily famous, with frustrated shoppers posting images of the dogs on social media.

The glitches even sparked an unlikely conspiracy theory that President Donald Trump — who’s repeatedly criticized Amazon’s business practices — worked with Russia President Vladimir Putin in their summit meeting Monday to cripple Amazon’s website.

For its part, Amazon had sent out statements acknowledging the problems, but didn’t say what caused the issues. It appears likely that the rush of shopper traffic at the start of the sale crashed Amazon’s site.

Other retailers including Walmart, eBay and Macy’s took advantage of the attention to Prime Day and Amazon’s problems by offering competing sales and pointing out that — unlike Prime Day — their deals didn’t require a $119-per-year membership fee. Target on Wednesday said it saw its highest traffic and sales day of 2018 on Tuesday thanks to its rival sale.

Despite this year’s Prime Day problems, Feedvisor’s Rosenman said independent sellers on Amazon he’s spoken to were happy with the sale.

“We’re seeing a really large increase in sales, something around 60 percent on average,” he said in an interview Tuesday afternoon, citing his company’s data of US Feedvisor customers. “That’s a massive increase.”

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