Amazon wants some Alibaba magic on Prime Day

The online retailer appears to have taken some inspiration from China with its upcoming sales event

Jeff Bezos with paperwhite

Jeff Bezos with paperwhite

Amazon is doing its best to jack up sales by inventing a new shopping holiday, but one thing it hasn't invented is a new idea.

The e-commerce giant is trying to get people pumped up about Prime Day this Wednesday, but its only the latest example of a company manufacturing a "holiday" for the sole purpose of selling stuff.

Online retailers jumped on this about 10 years ago by capitalizing on "cyber Monday." Timed as the Monday immediately following Thanksgiving, it attempts to extend brick-and-mortar "black Friday" shopping fever to online stores and has proved to be very successful. Most estimates put 2014 "cyber Monday" sales in the range of US$2 billion.

But what Amazon really seems to be mimicking is Alibaba's hugely successful "singles day" in China." Alibaba's pitch to consumers on November 11 (Get it? 11/11 for "singles") is simple: You're a single guy or girl, no one's buying you gifts so go-ahead and treat yourself.

It's a flimsy basis for a shopping holiday but it hits a nerve. Through its Tmall and Taobao sites, Alibaba sold $9.3 billion of goods on singles day in 2014.

That's more than Amazon sells worldwide in an entire month.

Not only is it a remarkably effective way to sell things, it's also been a superb marketing gimmick. Thanks in part to a massive, photogenic display wall that tallies up sales in real time, Alibaba received significant media exposure both in China and around the world.

Amazon's Prime Day is also about selling stuff, but it comes with an admission price. As the name suggests, it's open to members of Amazon's Prime subscription service, an annual $99 shopping club that offers free shipping and other benefits. If you're not a Prime member, Amazon is offering a free trial, presumably with the expectation that many of those attracted by the deals will forget to cancel the membership during the trial period and end up with it for a year.

Getting consumers signed up to Prime is important for Amazon. The free delivery service helps ensure people stay loyal to its service, and Amazon has loaded additional perks on the membership, like a streaming video library, to help persuade customers that it's worth the price even if you don't buy a lot of stuff.

That loyalty will be key as Alibaba attempts to expand its sales footprint -- and that of single's day -- outside of China, and as Amazon invests in new sales channels such as drones. The company is on a mission to completely replace shopping trips for consumers, and Amazon Prime is a big part of that push.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags amazone-commercealibabainternet

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?