Amazon Had Mixed Success With Prime Day – Strong Sales, But Consumer Backlash Could Linger

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Amazon scored big sales with Prime Day, its first-ever attempt to create its own sales holiday to rival the post-Thanksgiving sales bump that includes Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The company reported that its Prime Day sales were actually bigger than Black Friday sales, even though they were limited to Prime members. But where Amazon failed was in capturing social buzz from consumers, as well as positive sentiment, as any Twitter user this week could have told you.

Based on social media postings, a number of shoppers were disappointed with Amazon’s Prime Day sales, which they felt lacked significant savings, or simply weren’t the high-quality deals they expected. Many, too, were disappointed that some of the better deals on the site on Wednesday were for Amazon’s own hardware, but the company didn’t have enough stock to meet demand.

Amazon moved large numbers of its own products in minutes, including thousands of Amazon Echo speakers, and tens of thousands of Fire TV Sticks in an hour, the company said. But after stock was depleted, Amazon didn’t replenish deals, putting users on waitlists that never panned out.

According to data released this week by Adobe, which tracked Amazon Prime Day and counter sales across over 4 million social mentions on blogs, Twitter, Instagram, WordPress, Reddit, Foursquare and elsewhere, the Prime Day sales event failed to capture the buzz of consumers when compared to Black Friday. By late afternoon on Prime Day, the firm had tracked over 90,000 social mentions, but by the same point, Black Friday 2014 had seen 20 times the number of mentions during the same time period (or 1.6 million).

The majority of the Prime Day mentions were from the U.S., which accounted for 74 percent of the buzz. Californians chattered the most about Prime Day, with a 12 percent share of the market, followed by New York. They were also more positive in their mentions, says Adobe.

Meanwhile, outside the U.S., the U.K. was the country that was the next larger in terms of the amount of chatter, with a 10 percent share. It was more positive than the U.S., as well, with 52 percent of the mentions related to joy or admiration of the sales event, where in the U.S. those two emotions combined reached only 42 percent.

In fact, the U.S. audience was largely disappointed by Prime Day, with half (50 percent) of the overall sentiment expressing sadness, largely focused on the lack of blockbuster deals. Adobe notes that many of the negative tweets it found were pointing to less-desirable items, like socks, microfiber towels and Adam Sandler movies, for instance. Only 23 percent of tweets were joyful, 19 percent were admiring, and 8 percent expressed surprise.

Adobe wasn’t the only firm tracking Prime Day buzz. Amobee Brand Intelligence told AdWeek that by 1 PM ET on Prime Day, only 23 percent of some 112,581 tweets it analyzed were positive, and 12 percent were negative (65 percent were neutral, it said). That’s a bit of jump over what Amazon’s brand buzz usually looks like, Amobee claimed – the prior day, 22 percent of tweets were positive, but just 7 percent were negative.

That being said, the firm speculated that despite the uptick in negative tweets, Amazon may have still seen a large number of sales – a theory that ultimately proved true.

But analysts disagree on what effect the negative sentiment and tweets had on Amazon. Internet Retailer’s wrap-up, for example, quoted an Altimeter Group analyst Omar Akhtar as saying the consumer backlash was “not a good look for Amazon,” and the company failed to capture the joy of a major shopping event like Black Friday with its Prime Day sales.

Meanwhile, Adobe Senior Analyst Joe Martin cited the age-old saying that there’s “no such thing as bad publicity,” as even the bad tweets boosted consumer awareness of the event. That also appeared to be the case, based on Experian’s data, which found that social media sites delivered 15.2 percent of all referred traffic to on Prime Day, up from 11.3 percent the prior Wednesday – a relative increase of 35 percent. (News and media sites, meanwhile, sent 6.7 percent of the traffic, up from 4.3 percent the previous Wednesday.)

In other words, Twitter may have trashed Prime Day, but it still sent shoppers to the site. And many ended up buying. Amazon, which hasn’t commented on the consumer backlash, did point to some of its “sales highlights” when reporting on Prime Day’s sales numbers yesterday.

What’s funny is that some of the same items that Twitter users complained about – like those microfiber towels, for example – actually turned out to be some of the better-selling items. (Amazon sold 10,000 units of those; and it shipped 28,000 Rubbermaid containers – another item that some laughed about being a low-quality deal.)

Keep in mind that Amazon’s deals weren’t open to all shoppers on Prime Day but only to those who are Amazon Prime members  – its $99 per year membership program. That being said, Amazon’s failure to address what went wrong on Prime Day, or at least acknowledge there’s room to improve, may have left some with a bad impression about Amazon’s brand.

And since Prime Day was ultimately about getting shoppers to convert to Prime subscribers just as much as it was about unloading merchandise, it could have missed the opportunity to convince some potential subscribers that it valued its relationship with customers.

In the long run, that means Amazon’s decision to ignore the backlash could have longer-lasting effects beyond the Prime Day sales boost. Consumers who were on the fence about the value of Amazon Prime may think poorly of Amazon’s brand following the bad social media buzz.