Smoke and mirrors, on sale for Amazon Prime Day

Propping up Amazon as retail’s ultimate villain is as overplayed as “Don’t Stop Believing,” even though their underwater lair patent suggests the title wouldn’t be totally unwarranted. Good or evil, Amazon Prime Day is here once more, and everyone is talking about it.

This annual sale held on a double prime number (7 and 11. That one’s for the math geeks) is in its third year. Past years have shown customers weren’t happy with the deals they’re being offered.

So we wanted to take a peek at what’s really going on today. Is the sky falling? Is retail over? Do we really need three Kindle Paperwhites? And all those other hard-hitting journalistic questions you expect from us at Dor.

Are the deals any good?

Hit the Amazon home page for a promo splash page with a timeline-esque scroll design with Amazon tech goods like the Echo, Alexa and Kindle family above the fold. Products grouped by interest category feature name-brands and no-name-brands alike at 10 to 80 percent markdowns.

Our take? The prices may be right, but the products are all over the place. It feels less like an exclusive event and more like a wannabe Black Friday clearance bin at a box store. And we’re not alone: “Prime Day is when Amazon tries to offload a large quantity of items in the warehouse in order to make space for those items that will sell for the holiday season,” says a Redditor who “works for a uhh… large online retailer.”

We’ll have to wait for the sentiment research to see if other shoppers felt the same.

CNET called attention to sales at TechRabbit, Best Buy and Ebay hawking Google Home and Oculus Rift products at steep discounts as examples of Prime Day deals not on Amazon. And some independent e-commerce retailers are capitalizing on social media buzz to draw attention to their current sales and offerings:

We can still appreciate the little jokes Amazon had with itself, like offering this voodoo “cursed” cookie cutter for the price of $6.66. Jeff, you jokester!

Is the experience exceptional?

Speaking of the free-for-all bin. Nothing like a huge event to draw attention to Amazon’s aesthetically atrocious but admittedly e-commerce-altering website design that some have called “perpetually cluttered”. It’s an eyeful.

But what Amazon lacks is beauty it makes up for in muscle. In a June study, optimization researchers at Qubit took two billion data points and found that the resulting lift in revenue per visitor was due to three factors: Scarcity, social proof and urgency. The availability bars underneath each Prime Day offer, added with ticking time “bombs” of their availability, scream scarcity and urgency. User reviews add the social proof.

“There is still huge room for most brands to take the first step on this journey and move past un-targeted and/or cosmetic optimizations to more targeted and segmented approaches.” -Jay McCarthy, Qubit

Are you using those themes in your marketing to convert your store visitors, promoting limited-time offers and sharing customer testimonials on social media? Customers value speedy service, special sales and reviews offline, too.

To quote one of our cherished customers and e-commerce-turned-physical retailer Natasha Wong at Seldom Seen, “I understand that our customers live full lives, so [e-commerce] convenience is important, but I also think they value connecting with other people to find things that they need in their life.”

Most importantly: Are physical retailers doomed?

Nah. We’ll leave you with a handful of reminders from Matthew Shay’s encouraging LinkedIn post proclaiming otherwise:

  • Since 2013, construction spending on retail structures has increased by 40%.
  • Since the beginning of 2017, retail companies have posted more than 730,000 new jobs.
  • Retail sales grew 3.6% in 2016, outperforming overall GDP growth, and NRF forecasts even stronger growth in 2017.

Take a deep breath, friends. #PrimeDay will pass, Echoes and Alexas will be bought, and you’ll still be awesome. See you on the other side.

Main photo by Jiří Wagner on Unsplash

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