Amazon Prime Day 2019: A Profit, PR, and Accountability Disaster

Last month we speculated that, perhaps, Amazon would have learned from the millions the company lost during the website downtime Amazon experienced during 2018’s Amazon Prime Day event. While we were hopeful that Amazon would be ready for 2019’s Prime Day, the fact of the matter is that while we didn’t see massive website downtime and outages that were equal to that of the issues we saw in 2018, some serious problems were still very apparent. To make matters worse, not only did Amazon’s site have problems once again during its Prime Day event, this year it seems that competitors were actually banking on Amazon’s website crashing and one had even launched a marketing campaign taking advantage of the site’s issues.

What Went Wrong with Amazon’s Website?

The 2019 Prime Day website problems were not exactly like that of 2018, but the site definitely encountered more than its fair share of problems. Some customers were unable to add items to their carts, so they couldn’t take advantage of the Prime Day deals they were trying to get in on. No matter how many times these customers tried adding the deals to their carts, a “Failed to Add to Cart” error kept appearing. This, obviously, resulted in a direct loss of sales for Amazon during its largest sale of the year. The loss of sales, however, isn’t the only concern that this year’s Prime Day poses for Amazon.

When Your Competition Banks on Your Failure, It’s a Problem

Think about your own website for a moment. If your competition was banking on your site crashing, actually going as far as to market a “Crash Sale” that was ready to launch as soon as your site crashed, what would that tell you about your website? First, it tells us that a website has a history of having significant technical issues. Second, it tells us that the site is becoming known for its lack of reliability. That is exactly what happened during Amazon’s 2019 Prime Day event. While shoppers were getting increasingly frustrated due to the fact that they couldn’t add the items they wanted to their shopping carts, eBay went on the attack and tweeted to shoppers that it was having a competing “Crash Sale” that allowed Amazon customers to leave Amazon and turn to eBay for the deals they were looking for. While it may have looked like a last-minute sale that was thrown together by eBay, we all know that any marketing campaign relies on planning and strategic implementation, which means that eBay was actually banking on the fact that Amazon’s site would crash during this year’s Prime Day. Unfortunately for Amazon, eBay was right.

The Definition of Insanity

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different outcome. It seems that when it comes to site stability, Amazon (who has its very own, very large AWS on-demand cloud computing platform) still isn’t properly planning for its annual Prime Day event, despite the fact that each year seems to bring new problems and different reasons for various crashes during the event. If a company has put itself in a position in which a competing website can actually plan a sale around the crashing of the company’s site, it means the crashes are so bad they have become predictable. This is never a good thing. No matter how large a company may grow to be, an unnecessary loss of sales that equate to lost profits and an increase in customer frustration and dissatisfaction are never acceptable. The situation has gotten so bad that eBay wasn’t the only one banking on a Prime Day crash. If you are a person who likes to place bets, you could have actually placed monetary bets on whether or not Amazon’s site would crash during this year’s Prime Day. It seems that 2019’s Prime Day did indeed make history in the fact that it is the first time the general public was placing monetary bets on whether a site would crash or not. This definitely isn’t common, and it tells us that Amazon’s inability to accommodate its customers during Prime Day is becoming predictable, and not in a good way.

Better Isn’t Good Enough

While the issues Amazon faced during last month’s Prime Day weren’t as bad as they had been during the previous year’s sale, the fact is that there are still issues and Amazon still isn’t properly preparing for the annual event. This means that Amazon absolutely must work harder to fix the issues plaguing its ability to maintain consistent website uptime, not only during Prime Day, but throughout the year. While last year’s outage was bad, no one was placing monetary bets on whether or not it would go down and competitors weren’t planning sales around last year’s crash. We did, however, see this happen during last month’s sale. This is a direct reflection upon Amazon’s capabilities in terms of minimizing website issues. Worse yet, in the eye of the public, these crashes and performance issues may be an indication of the quality of the company’s AWS services. After all, if Amazon can’t keep its own site running properly, how can it be trusted to provide quality services for other sites?

Amazon, seemingly, is repeating the same mistake on Prime Day each year. The company is failing to properly plan for the traffic it will be experiencing. Imagine you have a home that can seat 18 for dinner, and you invite 36 people over without properly planning to seat the extra people. The first year this happened, your guests might forgive you. Now imagine you do this year after year. This is essentially what Amazon is doing with Prime Day. They know how many Prime customers they have, so they should be able to somewhat accurately predict the traffic that Prime Day will bring in and, therefore, should be able to properly plan for it. For some reason (what that reason is we don’t know since an Amazon spokesperson had declined to commen), Amazon can’t seem to master this task. Lesson of the month? If you’re planning a sale, make sure you can scale your website’s ability to accommodate the traffic that your site will experience during that sale. While a smaller business would stand to lose less than Amazon in the event of website downtime, there is no excuse for a shopping cart, one of the primary functions of a shopping website, to not work during one of the largest sales of the year. No matter how large your company may be or how much traffic your website receives, always be prepared to mitigate performance issues and minimize website downtime. A failure to do so, as we have seen, can actually result in competition and the public banking on the fact your website is going to crash – and that’s a reputation that no site should have.