I’d like to be a fly on the wall at Amazon

Prime Day was a win from all angles

Who would have thought that Amazon would become the dominant eCommerce force that it is today?

Probably seasoned investors, accountants and mathematicians – that’s why I’m in marketing and not on Wall Street.

But just as it does at any successful business, marketing plays an important role at Amazon. I don’t feel qualified to dissect corporate strategy and growth analysis, but I have been keeping an eye on how the internet retail giant promotes itself and reaches an unprecedented audience.

One huge component of Amazon’s marketing tactics – or perhaps more an assertion of their online shopping dominance – is Prime Day. Once a year thousands of items are offered to Amazon Prime members at discounts that roll out over a 30 hour period. Electronics, toiletries, kitchen gadgets, decor – there are Prime Day deals for virtually every category.

The third annual Prime Day was Tuesday, and Amazon certainly had me, and thousands of others, in its grip. By noon I was “watching” about 60 deals. I was into the more obscure things, like throw pillows, protein bars and dry erase markers, but I did see some items – gift cards in particular – get snatched up in seconds. That’s the beauty of the event. The structure adds an element of time sensitivity. Shoppers must first nab the deal before it is 100% claimed, then have a limited time to check out before losing the deal. I’d like to see some stats on how much money people spend and how quickly they pull the “place order” trigger on a normal day compared to Prime Day.

From 7 am to 8:30 pm I spent more time on the Amazon website than I want to, or should, admit. I came to the conclusion that they really thought of everything.

Imagine the meeting schedule of the team behind Prime Day. Amazon is so big that the team is probably employed just for the cause; all year long they are planning every last detail of those 30 hours, and the smooth execution rests upon their shoulders. I’m not sure I would want to be a part of that, but I’m sure they have some dope refreshments in their conference rooms.

What exactly goes into execution of a huge online event with thousands of moving parts?

I can’t say for sure, but if I caught a glimpse of the planning process, I’m sure it would include things like:

1. Deciding on deals. The sales are the core of the event, and there are literally hundreds of pages of items. Amazon sellers play a large role in deciding what will be offered and at what discount, and Amazon itself also puts its own products up for grabs. Quite honestly I don’t know enough about how Amazon tackles the complexity of deal assignment to make speculations, but it’s too major a component not to mention.

2. Meeting with a robust web programming team. On Prime Day, essentially a whole new website is embedded into amazon.com. The page has several layers and must function in real time. Prime Day involves live countdowns  for when deals begin, then how long until they end, and of course how long they remain valid in your cart. The site also tracks the percentage of available discounts that have been claimed and implements a wait list for those who just aren’t quick enough. It’s basically adding a whole new, more complicated level to the day-to-day Amazon shopping experience.

3. Creating the shopper experience. I guess this relates strongly to number 2, but it’s more the design side of the programming. Amazon covered all grounds in designing the Prime Day interface – visitors can browse all deals, deals by category, upcoming deals and even trending deals. Perhaps the most useful tool is the ability to “watch” deals. When a shopper decides to “watch” an item he/she is interested in, Amazon will then send notifications when the deal is starting in less than 10 minutes and again when it is actually starting. There is no way to know what the discount will be until the deal goes live. This all lives within the normal Amazon website, replacing the “Today’s deals” tab with “Prime Day Deals”. Interestingly, the Prime Day page and functions aren’t really that intuitive. Shoppers are bombarded with rows of products, a variety of ways to search, and labels like “Deal starts at ____”, “Watch this deal”, “Wait list full” and much more. I think that is why Amazon made education a point this year in promotional activity.

4. Promoting Prime Day. Amazon has smart, effective marketing for an eCommerce giant. I’ve always been intrigued by their tactics, which were certainly reflected in Prime Day. They don’t overdo it, which is key for a company of that size and influence.

Even though I’m a five year Prime member, I wasn’t aware that Prime Day was coming until about a week beforehand. Online shopping is impulsive by nature, so I don’t think more than a week is needed to prepare, especially when the full scope of what will be on sale is unclear. Email marketing is a delicate art that many companies abuse. But Amazon is different. All online retailers should envy Amazon’s customization to each user. Account holders do not automatically receive all of their emails (there are about 100), and are given the option to subscribe to what is relevant to them. Due to this, pre-Prime Day communication was probably different for everyone. My email settings lead to about 8 emails total being sent to my inbox, and most of them were about giveaways, which would happen every day anyways. However, if I hadn’t signed up about a week ago for giveaway emails, I don’t know that I would have tuned into the event.

The giveaway emails were particularly impressive. They directed viewers to a page where they could enter Amazon-sponsored giveaways. Free stuff – a classic move that really never fails. And the bouncing Amazon box that reveals if you win? Nice work, Amazon. What really caught my eye, though, was that Amazon used these giveaways as a portal to not only promote their event, but as a tool to educate people on navigating Prime Day and using the Amazon app. To enter the giveaways, one had to watch a short video explaining these topics. Whether or not people actually watched closely, it still drew attention and said “Hey, something is happening and we want you know how to make the most of it.”

5. Theme. Prime Day of course had to be accompanied by an exclusive design theme, which featured a funky little society infused in emails and web pages. I can only describe it as a cross between Wooden toys, origami and clay-mation, but it was eye-catching. Cute, unique and vibrant – it may have seemed random to most, but I see what Amazon was going for. Each image depicts active “people” in a colorful world doing things that we assume they enjoy. It mirrors Amazon – virtual access to a world of anything and everything we need and want.

Amazon.com | Prime Day

As quickly as it started, Prime Day disappeared without a trace. It took a decent amount of searching to find the items I had looked at throughout the day, and there is now no sign of any of the deals, even the ones I was “watching”. The only lingering reminder are the shipping notifications of the few items I purchased.

Amazon has literally created an electronic holiday. It’s just like Christmas – Lots of anticipation that results in one fast-paced day; a high that quickly fades away. This is only year three, and already Amazon can claim another successful endeavor. I’m looking forward to what we’ll see from Amazon Prime Day down the road.


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