In 1994, Jeff Bezos, left his high-paying job at Shaw & Co. to set up Amazon.com in his garage, and what followed is history. Amazon.com is currently the world’s biggest online retailer. Initially a book store, Amazon quickly added all types of electronics, downloadable content, cloud services, and even groceries to its inventory.
Surprisingly, Amazon didn’t make money for years. It first turned profitable in the last quarter of 2001. It generated staggering $1 billion revenue, but the profit was paltry $5 million. Even today, the situation hasn’t improved much. If you check the WorldPay Zinc’s interactive website, Amazon’s revenue to profit ratio is disappointing. For instance, Amazon generates $24,317 in 10 seconds clocking in $243 profit. In same time, ebay.com’s makes $5241 with a healthy profit of $933. In short, for every $100 bucks, Amazon makes a dollar worth of profit, whereas ebay grabs $17.
Amazon changed the ecommerce space with its innovative thinking and technology. Let’s have a look at some of its well-executed and upcoming ideas that are shaping the online retail business.
Kindle Changed The Way We Buy Books
As mentioned earlier, Amazon started-off by selling books. In 2007, it changed the way how these books are distributed. The company launched its first consumer product, an ebook reader called Kindle. Its e-ink display technology offered same readability as paper. Unlike traditional electronic screens, Kindle’s display did not produce glare. The product was well received and even managed to convince purists to go digital. Thanks to Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, new books were only a few clicks away. It was a win-win situation for Amazon and its customers. Book aficionados were no longer needed to lug around their favourite books, and Amazon saved itself from the hassle of moving physical copies. So while Sony launched the first commercially available ebook reader the Librie, it was Amazon that helped this product category become mainstream.
Considering the increased usage of Internet on phones, Amazon launched its smartphone app in 2008. The software, initially made for the iPhone was rolled out to BlackBerry in the following year (RIM was a big deal back then). Today, the app is also available on Android and Windows Phone. It has been downloaded by millions of people. The app lets you search products, read reviews, and make purchases. To make the price comparison easier, the app comes with a built-in barcode scanner that helps you quickly compare the prices. The company made payments hassle free with its secure payment feature. Users also have the liberty to connect to any of Amazon’s country store. Moreover, you can access existing carts, wish lists, and shipping details. All purchases made on the Amazon App are routed through Amazon’s secure servers. First Amazon.com saved you the trouble of going to supermarkets, and now changing with time, it has put the entire marketplace right at your fingertips.
Just a few days ago, Amazon announced that it has partnered with Twitter. This tie-up will allow American consumers to add products to their shopping carts by using #AmazonCart (for UK it’s #AmazonBasket) in tweets. Of course, you’ll first have to link your Twitter account to Amazon. To complete the purchase, you have to log into Amazon. So rather than direct shopping, this initiative is more about publicly announcing about the product you’re going to buy. The concept is surely unique, but only time will tell how useful and popular it turns out to be. However, one thing is for sure that Amazon will manage to create some buzz on the social media platform with its AmazonCart hashtag.
Last year, the company announced its Amazon Prime Air programme. Amazon is planning to use UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to deliver goods to consumers. The retailer promises that this system will deliver ordered goods in less than 30 minutes using octo-copters. How cool is that! The drones that can carry such payload are readily available in the market. However, I think Amazon has been overly optimistic when it said that Prime Air will be operational in 2015. Even the top-of-the-line UAVs can’t go beyond 1.5 to 2 km due to the limited battery life. That’s a biggest roadblock right now. Then, there are other issues such as safety, accountability, and cost-effectiveness that the company will have to address before getting this system in place.