Watching Amazon over the Black Friday Weekend

Though I don’t work at Amazon anymore, I am still a big fan of their business and all of their products. As a proud Amazon Prime member, if I need a single 99 cent black pen tomorrow, I can get it via next day air! This Black Friday weekend, I thought I’d reconnect with my former ‘Zon Komrades by snooping on their website (also known as shopping).

One of the most interesting things I saw over the Black Friday weekend was the pricing strategy of Amazon. I added a few TVs to my cart and then just observed their price changes over the course of the weekend. How? Amazon made it easy whenever I logged back in to track pricing changes for the items still in my cart. Although I am sure my timing wasn’t exact, I was able to generally watch the rise and fall of pricing as well as product availability.

To help illustrate these observations, I took some screenshots demonstrating the trajectory of pricing for the three 55 inch TVs I put in my cart.

My first notice came early Black Friday 11-27 (9.27 AM PST to be exact) and showed increases for all the items I placed in my cart.
Amazon-Pricing-2010-11-27-at-9.27

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

Throughout Black Friday and the following day I got updates each time I logged in. Prices that had increased on my last login just as rapidly decreased on the next.

Given how data-driven Amazon is, one might conjecture that they use a machine-learning algorithm to accomplish this alert system. This might also explain some of the little changes I saw in the messages ($0.09 price change—really?). What is truly interesting is that in addition to these notifications Amazon offers a “Best Price Guarantee” on their TVs. With such rapidly fluid prices that can decrease and increase in a amazon_price_guaranteegiven day, how is this type of best price guarantee even possible? This must mean that the best price guarantee is almost never used and is mostly marketing to help consumers feel comfortable buying.

From the information that Amazon supplied, I was able to pull a few trends and conclusions over the course of the weekend and into the week.

  • Prices really do go up after Cyber Monday—but only on certain items.
  • For the most part, Black Friday prices were the best.
  • Some items have as much as a 10% price movement (which on a TV is pretty significant).

My conclusion as a consumer? Keep on top of prices because it could very well be worth your while. As a professional in the retail environment, remember that Amazon is constantly innovating. Notification of a $0.09 price change may seem insignificant, but when you sum up all of the little changes Amazon is making all the time, that’s what makes their site experience so unique.

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This post was written by David Selinger

ABOUT David Selinger
David is CEO and founder of RichRelevance. He first garnered international recognition as an expert in the field of eCommerce data analytics and personalization with his groundbreaking work leading the research and development arm of Amazon’s Data Mining and Personalization team. In that role, David increased Amazon’s annual profit by over $50 million (25% of US profit, 2003) setting the industry standard for recommendation services. To view David's full profile, click here.
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