For most of us, Amazon has been such a big part of our lives, for so long, that it is hard to remember a time when it wasn’t there. A time when, if you wanted a book or a DVD, then you had to go out and visit an actual shop and hope that they had what you wanted in their limited stock. A time when Alexa wasn’t there to help you choose what book or film you wanted in the first place.
Today, as Amazon celebrates 25 years, you can have that book or film delivered by drone in the time it takes to make a drink and get your snacks together. While most of us have used our computers and phones to help Angry Birds to kill pigs, play best free slots to try and win a fortune or share our thoughts with the world on Twitter and Facebook, the team at Amazon have quietly taken over almost every aspect of our shopping lives. So, how did we get here, and how has Amazon grown from an online bookstore to become the second-largest company in the world with expected sales of $275 billion in 2019?
It Began as a Bookstore
When Jeff Bezos and friends opened their online bookstore in 1995, they weren’t even “book people”. They were computer nerds with a big idea and an even bigger warehouse. Sheer size meant they could out-stock any physical bookstore and fulfill orders quicker and easier, and before long, those orders soon started flowing. Little did they know how big their operations would soon become.
It Didn’t Stay a Bookstore for Long
Encouraged by their success with books, Bezos saw the opportunity to expand his business model to include all manner of other goods, from DVDs to toys, gadgets to household goods. More warehouses meant more stock, and more stock meant more choice. In only a few short years, Amazon grew to be the biggest online retailer in the world, with operations and warehouses across the globe.
Keeping Up with Technology
Impressive as this start was, it could easily have ended abruptly with the arrival of e-books. However, this is where their background in computers rather than books put them ahead of the game. Rather than get beat by e-books, Amazon chose to lead the charge with its e-book reader, the Amazon Kindle, which like the store that sold it, became a world leader quickly.
A Finger on the Pulse
Amazon’s success is the product of an acute awareness of, and response to, customer demand. The range has expanded consistently, with Amazon allowing small businesses to use its platform via Amazon Marketplace. More importantly, the service has grown to match, with Amazon Prime offering next-day delivery on virtually everything for its 100 million members. And they are not about to rest on their laurels, with Prime Air taking the company in a whole new, space-age direction.
Prime Air Touches Down
The days of waiting days for your Amazon parcel delivery could soon be a thing of the past, as Amazon fine-tunes its drone delivery service, Prime Air. First trialed in Cambridge in 2016, the service promises to deliver your parcel within 30 minutes of your order, using state-of-the-art drones. It might seem futuristic, but much like the online bookstore of the 1990s, it could soon become commonplace in our everyday lives.
Innovation, imagination and entrepreneurship have taken Amazon from a start-up to a global powerhouse in only 25 years. Today, the company is worth around $1 trillion and is second only to Microsoft in market value. Bezos regularly tops the list of the world’s richest people, with a personal fortune of $121 billion — 38 percent richer than the British royal family — despite only taking a modest salary of $81,840 a year. Business Insider estimates that his wealth increases by around $2,489 per second.
Of course, there are some, especially on the high street, who say that such market dominance is not necessarily a good thing and that Amazon kills off the competition. But at the end of the day, customers will always vote with their wallets, and the company that offers them the best choice and price, backed by best service will always win. Plus, when a drone can deliver all of that to your backyard in under half an hour, it’s hard to see anything stopping the march of Amazon any time soon.