Amazon has reported “bigger than ever” sales for Prime Day 2018, which grew faster saleswise than last year’s Prime Day within the first 10 hours, TechCrunch has reported. It’s also the first Prime Day to bring together physical and digital operations by including a wide array of deals at Whole Foods stores.
But as many frustrated online shoppers know, it wasn’t without its share of issues: The website crashed at launch and continued to experience periodic outages, and thousands reported losing connections with their Echo speakers and Alexa digital assistants.
On Twitter, Amazon acknowledged the many difficulties shoppers were having, although it also added a positive spin: “Some customers are having difficulty shopping, and we’re working to resolve this issue quickly. Many are shopping successfully–in the first hour of Prime Day in the U.S., customers have ordered more items compared to the first hour last year. There are hundreds of thousands of deals to come and more than 34 hours to shop Prime Day.”
Retailers that deal in both durables and consumables already have been fighting back on and around Prime Day: Walmart, for instance, has its “Ultimate Summer Savings.” But a snafu like that which happened on Prime Day 2018 marks a critical opportunity for grocers in both e-commerce and physical operations.
HOW THE SNAFU COULD AFFECT AMAZON, ITS GROCERY OPERATIONS
Amazon has set the standard customers have come to expect from a seamless, convenient shopping experience. The company serves as a model that other brands strive to emulate and duplicate.
So it speaks to how fragile consumer loyalty is when suffering a “black eye” such as a site outage that can cause them to quickly move to a competitor’s site, said Jeff Cheal, director or product strategy, personalization, campaign and analytics at digital commerce solutions provider Episerver.
“Our experience and research shows that customers are quick to jump ship if an online shopping experience doesn’t live up to these new standards, even with sites they are previously familiar with,” he said. “In fact, we’ve found that over half of consumers have abandoned a purchase because they can’t find what they’re looking for quickly enough if site performance stands in the way of a consumer’s shopping experience – especially during a banner sales event, users won’t quickly forget this.”
And considering Amazon is breaking into traditional brick-and-mortar grocery, the lack of a strong and seamless digital customer experience can lead to lost opportunities for customer engagement – there’s the possibility that damage to the online brand will, in shoppers minds, hurt the physical brand, too.
“If Prime members can’t shop for the deals they were promised on Prime Day, it means Amazon has fumbled in delivering on the very premise that has made it into the retail juggernaut it is today,” said Cheal.
3 WAYS GROCERS CAN RESPOND PHYSICALLY, DIGITALLY
Consumer fickleness always has been an opportunity for grocers, meaning competing grocers can use the Prime Day snafu to their e-commerce advantage by:
DELIVERING A STRONG, ENGAGING PLATFORM
It’s critical that a site can handle heavy traffic and create a reliable experience, said Dan Neiweem, co-founder and principal of digital solutions provider Avionos.
“This way, when Amazon’s site crashes, shoppers can pivot to sites where they know they can make a quick purchase and, ultimately, receive what they need,” he explained.
Following that, grocers need to provide a rich, engaging experience: Make product searches easy, content engaging and product recommendations relevant across digital channels, Cheal said.
STRIKING A PHYSICAL-DIGITAL (OR ‘PHYGITAL’) BALANCE
Balance is especially critical considering that nearly two-thirds of shoppers expect to make more online purchases this year than they did in 2017, Cheal noted.
“Grocers can use this as an opportunity to implement features that remind consumers why traditional grocery stores are still very much relevant,” he noted.
For example, Kroger is adopting Kroger Edge, a new grocery technology that digitally displays pricing, nutritional information and coupons for various products. This shows a way forward for physical grocers with online operations (as well as online grocers with physical operations) that are seeking to bridge the gap between in-store shopping and the digital experience.
CREATING ‘PRIME DAYS’ OF THEIR OWN
Brick-and-mortar operators would be wise to conduct their own in-store sales to compete with both Amazon and Whole Foods, Neiweem stated. Some 70% of consumers are most likely to make impulse purchases in a store, likely due to the ease of adding last-minute items to physical carts.
“As grocers continue to build up their in-store offerings,” he said, “they can capitalize on this purchase pattern and facilitate similar deals that are able to rival Amazon’s.”
A version of this article appeared at ProgressiveGrocer.com.