Promoted as the ‘Black Friday’ of the summer, Amazon Prime Day was originally launched in celebration of the retailer’s 20th birthday.

You might remember that last year didn’t go quite as planned.

Despite some initial fanfare, social media was soon flooded with complaints about laughable discounts and naff products, with consumers gleefully using the hashtag #primedayfail to highlight everything that went wrong.

Today, the sales event is back, with Amazon promising even more bargains to tempt consumers.  

But has Amazon learnt from its mistakes? Here’s the situation so far…

Who’s eligible?

The clue is in the name. The biggest and best deals are only available to Prime members. 

With last year’s event resulting in the most Prime sign-ups in a single day (and a subsequent 19m US subscribers since) – the event is clearly just a vehicle to grow Amazon's member base.

For regular consumers, this has the power to repel rather than pull people in, especially since the retailer has been intent on hammering home the ‘exclusive’ message on all its main email, website and social media copy.

It has to be said, there are some deals accessible to all, but they are extremely limited and very hard to find.

It took a good few minutes for me to figure out that the ‘Featured Prime Day’ savings were eligible to me (a non-member).

And let’s be honest, they’re far from exciting. (Unless vitamins and minerals are your thing...)

Ironically, if you’re not a Prime member, you’re the consumer that Amazon probably cares about the most today.

However, its heavy-handed targeting means that you might feel more inclined to avoid the whole thing rather than tempted to sign up. 

Social promotion

If you follow Amazon on any of its main social media channels, you’ll have seen its attempts at building excitement around the event. 

A series of countdown tweets and Facebook posts means that the event has been well signposted and cleverly executed.

While the Facebook ads are slick and well-designed (with a simple and effective call-to-action for a free trial on the main site), the fact that it's so heavily geared around exclusivity surely means that non-Prime members are likely to ignore it.

In terms of emails, I only received one on the morning of the event itself.

Instead of promoting the discounts, I did find it slightly off-putting that it only showcased the products – an obvious attempt to get consumers to click through to learn more.

Whether or not that click converts to a purchase, again, probably depends on Prime membership status.

The discounts

One of the biggest complaints from consumers last year was that the biggest discounts were not properly promoted on the site.

Eventually, it emerged that Amazon used a broad algorithm to select the deals, leading to a lot of random items such as tupperware and dishwasher detergent.

This year, it’s not entirely clear how it’s been set up, but according to a company spokesperson, Amazon has ‘increased the number of deals and at the same time, increased the volume of inventory behind those deals.’

With a dedicated homepage, showcasing a variety of categories and filter options, there is a clear attempt to give the user greater direction.

Navigation is simple, with good signposts to point customers in the direction of 'deals ending soon' and 'recommended deals'.

In terms of savings, there does appear to be a decent amount of products on offer, with the best being discounts being on electronics and home appliances.

However that algorithm must be working its evil magic again... I also spied far too many irrelevant items for my liking.

In conclusion...

It’s probably too early to say for sure if this year’s Prime Day has been any more successful than the last.

While clearly an attempt to bag even more Prime memberships, what the retailer fails to realise is that the hype might do more to put people off than draw them in. 

Similarly, there's already an amusing amount of social media backlash, so Amazon clearly hasn't done much to sort out that algorithm issue.

Nikki Gilliland

Published 12 July, 2016 by Nikki Gilliland @ Econsultancy

Nikki is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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