So, I feel like a bit of a broken here, but we’ve gotta talk about Amazon. Though this past week saw record spending online during the five-day Black Friday holiday shopping weekend—including a new single day U.S. online sales record on Cyber Monday—Amazon is again stealing the headlines.
This time, though, it’s less about finding a new home, and more about a pretty significant data management crisis.
See, in the run up to Black Friday, Amazon rather quietly sent out an email to an undisclosed number of its customers informing them that a “technical error” resulted in their names and emails being exposed. That same email said the issue had been fixed, but beyond that brief, three-sentence email, the company hasn’t said a word about what went wrong, or—perhaps more importantly—how its customers were impacted.
To be clear, this wasn’t a hack, so far as we know. No one infiltrated Amazon’s system and exposed this info. Rather, it was some internal error. That said, as of right now, we have no idea how many customers had their information exposed, what caused the technical error, what had to be done to correct it, or anything else of significance related to this situation.
That type of response may be comforting to a relatively small subset of Amazon loyalists. But to the 21st Century consumer, this really should serve as an example of how retailers—even the all-mighty Amazon—are not immune when it comes to potential leaks of data.
What’s most frustrating here, though, beyond the actual leak, is the total lack of transparency from the company that’s supposed to be all about its customers. In an age where hacks and data exposure are so top-of-mind, it’s unfathomable to me how Amazon could essentially try to sweep this under the rug and move on as quickly as possible.
Amazon owns nearly half of all the online retail space. Their Prime membership numbers sit somewhere north of 100 million. And during this super critical holiday shopping season they’ll see the number of transactions over the next month total in the billions. Consumers rely heavily on this ecommerce giant to get their holiday shopping done at a lower cost, in a more efficient way, and trusting that it's being done securely.
I’ve long believed that the one thing that could topple the juggernaut that is Amazon is a breach in confidence with its customers. And the second that customers lose confidence in the online retailing platform, Amazon loses its label as a disruptor and the king of ecommerce. We’re not there yet. But the response to a simple technical error certainly feels like the first step down the wrong path.