eBay’s answer to Prime Day aims to compete with (and make fun of) Amazon

The event will be called a “Crash Sale” in honor of Amazon’s server errors last year.

As Amazon revs up for Prime Day — the ubiquitous e-commerce retailer’s annual “parade of epic deals,” this year spanning 48 hours and crowned with a Taylor Swift concert — eBay is preparing to cash in. The global marketplace’s “Crash Sale” (so named, says eBay, “if history repeats itself and Amazon crashes”) will coincide with Prime Day’s kickoff on July 15.

2018’s Amazon Prime Day saw massive power failures from the jump, with many shoppers encountering the company’s famed “dogs of Amazon” error page art. Still, those technical issues didn’t stop Amazon from seeing its then-biggest sales day to date.

“Many are shopping successfully,” Amazon tweeted that day amid reports of outages, adding, “In the first hour of Prime Day in the US, customers have ordered more items compared to the first hour last year.” The final tally boasted 100 million products sold, with spending estimates hitting $3.4 billion. This year Amazon no doubt hopes to best itself with a two-day event (the longest yet) on July 15 and 16 that will remain exclusive to Prime members.

Today, eBay enters the fray, offering three weeks of sales events launching July 1, instead of, as eBay puts it, “limiting the fun to just two days.” It also (somewhat shadily) promises “great deals on the things [shoppers] actually want.”

Prime Days past have drawn criticism as “digital yard sales” with subpar offerings from little-known brands. And last year, warehouse workers in Germany, Spain and Poland mounted a Prime Day strike over working conditions and wages. The corresponding consumer boycott did not seem to negatively affect Prime Day’s sales, which instead drew praise for deep discounts on big-name brands like Sony, Samsonite, and Instant Pot, and on popular Amazon devices like the Echo and Kindle.

As Polygon notes, eBay has a track record for riffing on Amazon’s Prime Day in its competitive marketing, advertising “Primo Deals” last summer. The company shares a long, at times contentious, history with Amazon. Back in 2002, eBay announced that it’d be moving into the retail space after, as CNET reports, “having pushed rival Amazon into capitulation on the auction front.”

The pros and cons for buyers and sellers on both platforms since then have drawn years of debate. According to data company ScrapeHero, Amazon currently lists 119.9 million products, versus eBay’s self-reported 1.2 billion listings. Amazon’s earnings dominate, however, with Jeff Bezos’s empire reporting $72.4 billion in revenue for the last quarter of 2018, alongside eBay’s reported $2.6 billion in revenue during the same period.

EBay “is struggling to find its place in the shadow of online retail behemoth Amazon,” Bloomberg reported last July.

Meanwhile, Amazon has struggled to scale up in anticipation of Prime Day each year, with 2018’s 404 pages a notable example. (#PrimeDayFail has trended on Twitter each year since the annual event’s 2015 launch.) CNBC reports that Amazon’s inability to handle Prime Day’s high traffic volume was its own failing: Internal documents reveal that the company did not guarantee enough servers ahead of its biggest sale. Some argue that last year’s outages were positive indicators for Amazon, boosting both Prime Day’s visibility and highlighting its massive popularity, but as TechCrunch reports, Prime Day also “boosted other large retailers’ sales by 54%.”

Other merchandisers looking to capitalize on Prime Day’s successes have already begun to see mid-July become something of a national shopping holiday with a crowded market, akin to Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Target’s “Deal Days” will run over July 15 and 16 this year, too, with “no membership required,” says the retailer. Walmart will also be running an online promotion of “special buys and “rollbacks,” one day ahead of Amazon, reports Business Insider, on what may well be called Prime Day Eve.

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