A prime-time glitch

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A prime-time glitch

By Lawrence Aylward - 07/17/2018

Amazon’s Prime Day on July 16 didn’t go off without a hitch — there was a glitch.

Yes, the largest online retailer in the world had issues with its website on arguably its biggest business day of the year. Those three words that no online retailer wants to hear — “periodic platform outages” — prohibited consumers from shopping on their laptops, tablets and phones shortly after Amazon’s Prime Day sale began. And, yes, those consumers were irritated — taking to Twitter to tweet their frustrations.

To be honest, when I logged onto Amazon on Prime Day and saw the landing page with the cute dog that told me there was an error, I figured there was something wrong with my internet service. And then the same thing happened on my phone, and I thought there was something wrong with my phone.

I just figured that Seattle-based Amazon — the behemoth of all online shopping platforms — could never experience a glitch, especially on Prime Day. I mean, Amazon is the e-commerce god!

But even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has bad days. Funny thing, on July 16, besides being Prime Day, it was also announced that Bezos had become the richest man in history, topping $150 billion. But something tells me Bezos wasn’t celebrating. (I wonder if he cusses at his phone like the rest of us when he has internet problems.)

While there was a glitch, Amazon told CNNMoney, "Some customers are having difficulty shopping, and we're working to resolve this issue quickly. Many are shopping successfully — in the first hour of Prime Day in the U.S., customers have ordered more items compared to the first hour last year. There are hundreds of thousands of deals to come and more than 34 hours to shop Prime Day."

Prime Day continued on July 17 as it was actually 36 hours this year. Shortly after Prime Day ended, Amazon announced that sales surpassed Cyber Monday, Black Friday and the previous Prime Day, when comparing 36-hour periods, making it the biggest shopping event in Amazon history. Amazon said Prime members worldwide purchased more than 100 million products including many of its own brands. But Amazon didn't announced sales figures.

A few questions, though:

• How could  periodic platform outages happen? It’s like the lights going out in a Walmart on Black Friday. Was it just a case of too many shoppers hitting the site at one time? Wouldn’t you think Amazon would be ready for a billion hits?

• How much did the glitch impact sales? One prediction was that Amazon would score $3.4 billion in sales for this year’s Prime Day event. Will that number hold up?

• How will online shoppers, who are new to Amazon, react if they were unable to shop the site because of the glitch? Will they ever come back to Amazon?

Amazon, which continues to up the ante in its own brands across various categories, could take a hit from new users if they experienced a first “bad experience.” Considering own brands, image is everything; it’s not just about the products you offer. Will some online shoppers think less of Amazon? And will they associate the glitch with Amazon’s own brand product offerings — that those products might not be all that great, especially if its website is prone to failure?

Perhaps Amazon has experienced periodic platform outages before. We just didn't know about them. Alas, the timing of the latest outages couldn't have been worse.

If anything, the glitch proves that even almighty Amazon is vulnerable to technology troubles. 


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