Public Relations

Amazon Prime Day: Crisis calmed with cute dogs after website crash

Yesterday was the start of online retail giant Amazon’s annual Prime Day, a shopping event that has become the online equivalent of Black Friday. This year’s Prime Day was expected to break records once again and was estimated to surpass last year’s “tens of millions” of shoppers.

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Unfortunately for Amazon, this year they learnt a valuable lesson that brick and mortar shops have learned from previous Black Fridays.

The bigger the sale, the harder it is to control.


The Breakdown

When the sale started yesterday, customers were met with outages, looping pages and deals that only some could see.

According to CNBC, “Some users successfully added items to their cart, only to receive an error message when trying to checkout and complete the purchase. Other users saw the ‘deals’ page and ‘Shop all deals’ button disappear entirely.”

Worse, the crash/glitches spread from the main website to mobile and even the brand’s digital assistant Alexa and Echo voice-activated products. Alexa product owners had issues connecting with their assistant, and some had problems streaming video on Prime Video, the company’s video streaming platform.

Frustrated shoppers went to social media to let out their frustrations, but many were more focused on Amazon’s error pages.

In order to soften the expected barrage of frustrations, Amazon used a wide array of cute dog pictures alongside the error messages to calm customers.

The Dogs of Amazon were ready to smooth the upcoming crisis with furry smiles.


The Adorable Effect

The Dogs of Amazon have helped the online retailer calm down thousands of angry customers, which could have led to heavy criticism and negative press for the brand.

Frustrated customers were met with the adorable dogs of Amazon’s employees with page errors, the pets easing frustrations for most.


The crashes weren’t the only thing that was covered by the dogs of Amazon. Strikes across Europe started on Prime Day against “grueling, depressing” work conditions. The strikes have been barely talked about as the Prime Day crash and dogs of Amazon have taken over social media.


The PR Side

Amazon used its PR to handle the major crashes and strikes with less negative press than could be expected. It could be said that the dogs did really impact what could have been a full crisis for the brand.

The use of the dogs was a smart move that correlates with some of the more basic steps of crisis management.

  • Appoint a relatable spokesperson/pet
    To handle a crisis, you need a face. In this case, Amazon opted for the 6,000 dogs that come to work with their human owners. Amazon did release statements on the crashed website and mobile app, but these cute faces calmed more frustrations.
  • Ready for social media response
    Once upon a time, cat videos ruled the internet.
    Until now, it is still common knowledge that the internet loves cute adorable pets and that they are some of the most popular elements in viral videos. Amazon used this insight to prepare for social media backlash.
    Now, people on twitter have started “collecting” the dogs by saving their pictures.

  • Show off positive company culture
    The choice to share the dogs of Amazon doesn’t just come from a random insight, the error pages shine a positive light on the company’s culture. Amazon famously has over 6,000 dogs coming to work almost every day, and has installed various locations for the dogs to play and relax in their offices.
    Not only are the error pages showing off cute furry faces, it also shows the company’s dedication to animals. The dogs have been part of their error pages since at least 2006, according to Forbes.

Last year, Amazon’s Prime Day generated an estimated $1 billion in sales from the 30-hour event, which roughly equates to around $34 million every hour.

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