Making Amazon Prime “Black Tuesday,” Not a Black Eye


The second annual Amazon Prime Day is around the corner, and even the bigger critics of last year’s inaugural shopping holiday are expressing optimism for a better effort this time around.

To recap, the 2015 Amazon Prime Day extravaganza generated plenty of sales but also many complaints around the limited inventory and the ability to navigate it on Amazon’s site. Mega-sales of this type come with several potential pitfalls in cyberspace. And perhaps because it’s human nature to gaze at a train wreck or an easy way to drive traffic to a news/content site, the media and public have no trouble piling on when there are stumbles. With that, here are a few issues to monitor come July 12.

Keep that traffic moving

Anyone who stands on the stretch of Canal Street leading into the Holland Tunnel in New York City knows it’s almost impossible to avoid gridlock when thousands upon thousands of motorists cram into a 2.3-mile-wide island. Similarly, it’s quite the challenge for any e-tailer to prevent site slowdowns or crashes when they experience the level of traffic expected for Amazon Prime Day.

Yes, Amazon is better than most at handling this number of visitors, but even they weren’t immune to traffic pains last year, according to Dynatrace. Any critical transaction-like cart activity or Prime subscription sign-ups—transactions that demand ACID compliance—were slow to load at the outset of Prime Day 2015. With activity predicted to double this year, it would behoove Amazon to turn to a database built from the ground up to process extremely large amounts of concurrent write transactions—because its own Aurora database certainly doesn’t.

And it’s not just Amazon that needs to be prepared either; Prime Day is a tide that lifts many boats, so competitors likewise need to be prepared for a spike in cart transactions.

Having a database that scales to the level of peak demand is akin to the Holland Tunnel automatically expanding to eight, 12 or even 24 lanes as needed to ensure those motorists get to their destinations with no delay.

Tick tock, tick tock

Looking at traffic gridlock from high above in the news helicopter is different from actually being stuck in the jam yourself. The experience, as we all know, is horrible. And no retailer wants to deliver such a terrible customer experience. In the e-commerce realm, this means horrendous wait times for pages to load.

Customers don’t have such patience, especially today’s consumers who routinely shop from their smartphones, as our CEO Mike Azevedo told Retail Drive following Target’s Cyber Monday struggles. And Target’s stop-gap solution to “meter” customers entry into the “store” to avoid the slow page-load issue does not improve the experience either.

Having the right infrastructure underneath e-commerce applications—a database that can scale to the volumes of simultaneous transactions required—would alleviate traffic bottleneck and ensure pages load when shoppers expect them to, enhancing the customer experience and driving loyalty.

Accurate, accessible inventory

Shoppers can’t enjoy a great deal if it’s a Where’s-Waldo exercise to find it. Unfortunately, that’s what many Prime members found last year. The inability to handle a tsunami of cart transactions forced the Seattle-based giant to slim down its homepage to a large ad that read “Happy Amazon Prime Day. More deals than Black Friday,” rather than using it to point visitors to the latest deals. If only they could process millions of simultaneous online transactions seamlessly throughout the day, customers would then be able to access up-to-date inventory from all angles—their wish lists, email notifications, or click-through advertisements—without a blip.

And competing retailers catching the overflow of deal hounds on the prowl should also be using a database that allows them to compete more effectively, one that enables them to match offers and update catalogs instantly without taking their system offline. Customers will be in price-comparing mode all day, moving from Amazon to competing sites, thumbing through thousands of products; there will be no patience for delays caused by stock or price inaccuracies.

If done right, Amazon Prime members will walk away with new TVs, toys, and other goods…and they won’t have to tell anybody about what a hassle it was to get them.