Amazon Made a Holiday for Itself, and I’m So Glad They Did | Eileen Wittig
Tuesday was the day we’d all been waiting for, our second, better Black Friday: Prime Day. The day Amazon puts limited amounts of random items on sale for a limited time. The day internet frenzy rivals the famed casual violence of Black Friday. It’s practically a holiday, and it’s only three years old.
I prepared for a full week, and I wasn’t the only one. Amazon was marketing Prime Day on the front page of their website for weeks, and it quickly spread across social media and traditional news outlets. Amazon has embraced the way people shop now — no surprise for the tech-developing, trend-setting company — by adjusting their app to alert you when your saved items go on sale and to hype you up with daily giveaways starting a few days before. The algorithm analyzed my previous purchases and everything on my waitlist and started my Prime Day list with deals they thought I’d like the most. They even started Prime Day a few hours early on Monday night to effectively reward us night owls for our terrible sleeping habits.
It’s a brilliant marketing plan, and I — and you — benefited.
21st Century Sales
It’s a strangely unifying event, even though you’re actively competing for products against untold thousands. There’s an added sense of euphoria when you manage to get what you want before it sells out, and your friends celebrate your victory over your faceless enemies with you. There’s a shared sense of disappointment, even of loss, when you find your items have sold out before you had a chance to snatch them into your virtual basket. I checked in with friends throughout the day to see how their quest was faring, to see if they’d found any deals I’d like, and to update them on things I’d discovered in case they wanted one too. I asked my Prime-less friends if there was anything they needed so I could grab it for them. It became a sort of social event, certainly more so than the traditional Black Friday, with all that animosity in the air.
Did it feel invasive to have a tailored Prime Day experience, fed by algorithms reading my shopping history? Not really. I could’ve denied Amazon all information about my spending habits by turning off tracking cookies and customized list offers. But I didn’t, because those cookies served me as much as they served Amazon. It cut down on the time I spent looking for items, which left me happier. Even though it sounds like I spent a lot of time on Prime Day, it would have been so much worse without the technology Amazon used. Yes, their ultimate goal is to earn more money. But they still have to cater to me and make me happy in order to reach that goal. And I am totally fine with that.
Did Amazon benefit from this self-celebrating holiday? Absolutely. They made a ridiculous profit off it: they earned more on Prime Day this year than on both Prime Day and Black Friday combined in 2016. It was their biggest sales day ever, in the whole 25-year history of Amazon. It would just be bad business for them to throw an event as big and expensive as Prime Day if it didn’t earn them a profit.
But the real benefit of the day, the one I care about, was all the stuff I found on sale, which started arriving at my door yesterday. Hooray for Amazon for making a good business decision and doing well financially, but we all know we’re really focused on what we can get out of their idea for ourselves.
Thanks to their self-serving sale, I finally got to check a robotic vacuum off my list, for half the price I would’ve paid at Target. I got the fanciest darn chef’s knife I’ve ever seen, let alone actually held, let alone owned. I even got the 23andMe ancestry DNA kit for half its usual price.
By the end of Prime Day, I had saved about $250 on things I was going to buy anyway. I could’ve gone off the rails and bought a ton of unnecessary things (the super sparkly diamond stud earrings were tempting, not gonna lie), but I stayed strong. But even if I had let myself go for what was basically billed as Treat Yo’Self Day, I couldn’t have blamed Amazon for the resulting bill, as some people do. “Stupid Amazon, making me buy all these things!” will never be a real excuse. They couldn’t have even forced one of the free giveaway prizes on me. Every purchase was made by my own choice. There’s a reason Amazon is the third-largest retailer in the world now, and that reason is our own shopping habits. I mean really, how are you supposed to hate a company that’s giving you the opportunity to buy things for half their normal price?
What does Amazon’s unprecedented success mean for us going forward? It means the company will probably do more of the same next year, possibly ramping it up with more, even better sale offers. They’ll probably update their mobile app to make it even easier for us to find and buy things, so we’ll save even more time. And by summer 2018, technology will probably have advanced to the point where our Prime Day experience will be even more personalized, which will save even more time. Put it all together and we’ll be saving money with time to spare like never before. And all without worrying about accidentally getting trampled.
Originally published on fee.org on July 14, 2017.