This week consumers were expected to go into overdrive as smartphones were swiped, laptops desperately booted up and orders barked into Echo devices as online Goliath Amazon staged its third Prime Day.
Prime Day, although restricted to members of Amazon’s eponymous subscription service, has rapidly established itself in shoppers’ calendars.
It’s become a bargain beanfeast of epic proportions that last year added an estimated $500m to Amazon’s incremental sales – a sum not far off some retailers’ annual turnover.
And this year it looked likely, as previously, to break records as headline prices on everything from technology to fashion were slashed.
What matters about Prime Day is that, unlike Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving, this is a festival that only members can join in with.
Only subscribers can access the mouthwatering deals, although other retailers such as Dixons Carphone now stage their own rival promotions simultaneously.
“Amazon, still regarded by many as a retail website, could be quite happy to leave that mode of commerce behind if it finds shoppers prefer to speak instead of swipe”
And Amazon is not the only retailer taking this tack. Chinese powerhouse Alibaba runs two events it has created itself – 8.8 day and Singles’ Day. The latter generated sales of $18bn last year.
Could other retail big names do similar? Loyalty schemes such as Nectar and Clubcard have taken on a jaded hue as data and retail firepower give birth to new initiatives such as Prime Day, so perhaps other retailers should ask whether they could stage their own extravaganzas for loyal shoppers?
Not vouchers off the egg sarnie that a commuter may have bought as their daily lunch, but exciting, exclusive deals that are too good to miss and only available to committed customers?
The other big thing to watch is how Amazon is attempting to change shopping habits through Prime Day.
In the US for instance, there were deals available exclusively to users of Amazon’s Echo voice-activated device.
And for those that don’t have one, the Echo was made available on Prime Day at its lowest ever price in the UK of £79.99.
There should be a big warning light flashing here. Amazon, still regarded by many as a retail website, could be quite happy to leave that mode of commerce behind if it finds shoppers prefer to speak instead of swipe.
All that investment plied by retailers into more easily navigable, mobile optimised sites could come to nought if voice takes off and they are not ready.
Google and Apple as well as Amazon are both piling investment into voice-activated technology.
It may be another instance in which conventional businesses, as in the past, feel that they do not have investor permission to spend on.
However, if these initiatives work, shopper permission will be what makes the difference.
And online commerce would, once again, have taken on a whole new meaning.
Bridging the productivity gap
John Lewis Partnership chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield this week, along with other company chiefs, launched a new productivity initiative, Be the Business.
They hope to create a “movement” to drive improvement in productivity, in which the UK lags behind many other big economies.
Retail, an industry reliant both on large numbers of people and technological innovation, should stand to benefit from productivity opportunities.
The problem can be though, as Channel 4 boss David Abraham, another backer of the initiative, pointed out, the frequent perception that “one man’s productivity is the next man’s redundancy”.
That’s why improved productivity will require buy-in from the top to bottom of businesses to build understanding that in the long-term it leads to better pay as well as better profits.