Amazon Down 15 Minutes, Loses Over $66,000 Per Minute

Amazon error placeholder page

Amazon stock investors took a deep breath this afternoon as online retail giant Amazon went down for a brief time without warning.

Media accounts differ on the exact duration. Reuters and several other news outlets put the downtime for users in the U.S. and Canada on both Web and mobile at around 15 minutes. However, some sources suggest downtime was longer with GeekWire putting it at about 40 minutes.

Amazon has offered no response to most media inquiries. (Small Business Trends also tried to contact the mega online retailer earlier today without success.)

However, in a brief tweet CNBC claimed Amazon told the cable news channel its site was down for “improvements” and would be open again for business soon.

Less than one hour’s downtime may not sound like a lot in the overall scheme of things.  But when you’re as big as Amazon, minutes mean big losses. Forbes calculated that given Amazon’s most recent annual numbers, the company probably lost about $66,240 per minute in sales.  So that’s almost $1 million in lost sales if you buy the 15-minute explanation.  If the site was inaccessible for closer to 40 minutes, that’s over $2.5 million in lost sales.

Of course, Amazon can easily survive those kinds of lost sales.  With a market cap of $130 billion as of today, a few measly millions are a rounding error.

However, as a small business, if your site goes down, you may be hard-pressed to bounce back as quickly, especially if you use outside tech help.  By the time you contact your tech help, and they free up from other demands, several hours could have gone by.

And while your site is down, not only do you have to contend with potential losses — but your company could lose credibility, especially if the outage continues for hours or days.

Here Amazon did a smart thing. The company had a branded placeholder screen ready.  Within a few minutes, the placeholder page saying “Oops!” went up.  So instead of simply getting a screen with an alarming error message, such as “500 internal server error,” you saw a page that looked like an page of sorts (image above).  Even though the site was still down, it wasn’t quite as glaring an issue, because it looked like an Amazon page.

You, too, can minimize the loss of credibility and resulting fallout, by putting in place your own custom error page.

Watch the video below for a simple tutorial on how to install your own error page so you’re ready the next time your site goes down. If your server has CPanel installed, it’s not difficult. For most small businesses, the reality is, you’re likely to experience the occasional outage.  It’s better to be prepared.

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Shawn Hessinger Shawn Hessinger is the Executive Editor for Small Business Trends and a professional journalist with more than 20 years experience in traditional and digital media for trade publications and news sites. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and has served as a beat reporter, columnist, editorial writer, bureau chief and managing editor for the Berks Mont Newspapers.

22 Reactions
  1. amazon lost respect over this outage; that’s a lot more than $2.5M

  2. Pretty funny. That astounding loss figure makes a pretty big, and probably very erroneous assumption, that an Amazon purchaser wouldn’t return to the site and complete their purchase later on. Of course you don’t ever want your site to go down, but users do, and will, return to sites that provide them with value.

    • Stew, you’re probably right that people return and buy from such a well known shopping destination as Amazon.

      Over the past ten years we’ve had a number of outages (although we’ve gotten much better at keeping the site up). More than lost sales, however, extended outages or frequent outages can cause a reputation loss, especially for small businesses that don’t have a household-name brand behind them.

      I like the idea of the custom error page, that makes it seem as if you’re still in control even if the pages are not rendering.

      – Anita

    • Definitely agree. I’m sure a large percentage of these customers came back after 45 minutes or so. It’s never ideal for something like this to happen but as long as its very infrequent/a one-time thing, there’s little damage for Amazon. Money or respect-wise.

  3. Martin Lindeskog

    Shawn: Didn’t they have a back-up of any sort?

  4. Stew: Agreed – they will come back later 🙂

  5. I guess everybody is entitled to their own Oops every now and then.

  6. The downtime could probably be due to server glitch and any reliable, robust hosting company should guarantee at least 99% uptime. Otherwise, it would lose clients to competitors.

    • Diana, the irony is that Amazon provides hosting. Oh well, I’m not worried for Amazon, but mainly small businesses that find themselves in the same situation. Small businesses don’t have the resources or the recognizable brand name to get them through….

    • Actually, 99% uptime translates to over three days downtime. Fifteen minutes, though it may seem short to the average person is a big deal to network admins. So it’s not surprising that stocks took a dive as a result as people panicked and wondered what happened. Being down for a few minutes is inconvenient and possibly frustrating but fifteen minutes is bound to raise some concerns. It’s not just about losing customers to competitors but confidence on whether they can maintain operations. Amazon’s brand is strong enough that it can survive fifteen minutes downtime from customers; they will come back.

  7. They shall be fine, it’s Amazon a few minutes of not working won’t hurt them in the long run.

  8. amazon is such a huge platform that I am not surprised to see such big monetary loses

  9. It’s amazing how much money a company can lose in a simple downtime. 1 million from a 15 minute downtime is a lot. But if you’ll look at it in a different light. Why not imagine how much they are earning in a single day WITHOUT the downtime?

  10. Yes, this isn’t surprising at all with such a big online presence as Amazon has. I’m sure Amazon wasn’t hurt to much by these losses.

  11. My heart does not bleed for Amazon, but rather for the businesses that were affected by the downtime. I think Amazon should offer some kind of compensation for when things such as this happen; it would go some way in acknowledging the impact of such unfortunate occurrences.