Bezos and those he’s hired over the years have been prescient about a vast number of shifts in how people spend money, buy products, and use the internet. But none of their predictions may have panned out quite as lucratively as Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud computing division that loans server space and other computing resources at massive profit margins.
Yet the more monumental retail push occurred last summer, when Amazon purchased grocery chain Whole Foods for $13.7 billion and proved, yet again, that Bezos is willing and able to buy his way into a new market when it’s unfavorable to start from scratch. Amazon now uses Whole Foods’ grocery pick-up and delivery perks and in-store discounts as a way to reward its Prime subscribers. It’s also using its massive resources to lower Whole Foods prices, making it more competitive with Kroger, Target, and Walmart. In response, Walmart has begun investing heavily in e-commerce and grocery delivery to protect its turf from Amazon, setting the stage for an unprecedented retail war.
After reading a report about the future of the Internet that projected annual web commerce growth at 2,300%, Bezos created a list of 20 products that could be marketed online. He narrowed the list to what he felt were the five most promising products, which included: compact discs, computer hardware, computer software, videos, and books. Bezos finally decided that his new business would sell books online, due to the large worldwide demand for literature, the low price points for books, along with the huge number of titles available in print. Amazon was founded in the garage of Bezos' rented home in Bellevue, Washington. Bezos' parents invested almost $250,000 in the start-up.
Amazon was founded in 1994 around Bezos’ desire to start an internet-based business, with the goal of selling items online emerging as an early and obvious inroad into the dot-com boom. A former Wall Street worker with electrical engineering and computer science degrees, Bezos zeroed in on books as a viable initial product category for his online store due to the universality of literature, the existing stock of print books, and the relatively low price of each unit. Bezos briefly considered naming his company Relentless.com — an early sign of the man’s tenacious business mindset — but friends and family suggested it was too malevolent sounding. Relentless.com, which Bezos bought roughly 24 years ago, still redirects to Amazon.com. The company now controls almost half of all print book sales in the US.
The first Echo came out in late 2014 as a Prime member exclusive, but in the four short years since, Amazon has developed dozens of different smart home products that revolve around the speaker and voice assistant format. Today, thousands of products integrate with the company’s Alexa platform to make use of its voice search and query capabilities. Just as it once foresaw e-commerce, streaming, and cloud computing as the future of the internet, Amazon saw AI as not just something that could live within the smartphone — as Apple established with Siri and Google with its Assistant — but also in the home.
Since its founding, the company has attracted criticism and controversy from multiple sources over its actions. These include: supplying law enforcement with facial recognition surveillance tools; forming cloud computing partnerships with the CIA; luring customers away from the site's brick and mortar competitors; placing a low priority on warehouse conditions for workers; participating in anti-unionization efforts; remotely deleting content purchased by Amazon Kindle users; taking public subsidies; claiming that its 1-Click technology can be patented; engaging in anti-competitive actions and price discrimination; and reclassifying LGBT books as adult content. Criticism has also concerned various decisions over whether to censor or publish content such as the WikiLeaks website, works containing libel and material facilitating dogfight, cockfight, or pedophile activities. In December 2011, Amazon faced a backlash from small businesses for running a one-day deal to promote its new Price Check app. Shoppers who used the app to check prices in a brick-and-mortar store were offered a 5% discount to purchase the same item from Amazon. Companies like Groupon, eBay and Taap.it countered Amazon's promotion by offering $10 off from their products. The company has also faced accusations of putting undue pressure on suppliers to maintain and extend its profitability. One effort to squeeze the most vulnerable book publishers was known within the company as the Gazelle Project, after Bezos suggested, according to Brad Stone, "that Amazon should approach these small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle." In July 2014, the Federal Trade Commission launched a lawsuit against the company alleging it was promoting in-app purchases to children, which were being transacted without parental consent.
In November 2013, Amazon.com announced a partnership with the United States Postal Service to begin delivering orders on Sundays. The service, included in Amazon's standard shipping rates, initiated in metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and New York due to the high-volume and inability to deliver timely, with plans to expand into Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Phoenix by 2014.
Before you can sell your goods on Amazon, you need to create a store through Seller Central. As a seller, you have the choice of creating either an individual or professional account. While individuals can list their goods for free, selling as a professional costs $39.99 a month plus additional fees based on the value of the final sale. Individuals typically pay $0.99 per item sold in addition to variable fees based on an item’s category.
On October 16, 2016, Apple filed a trademark infringement case against Mobile Star LLC for selling counterfeit Apple products to Amazon. In the suit, Apple provided evidence that Amazon was selling these counterfeit Apple products and advertising them as genuine. Through purchasing, Apple was able to identify that nearly 90% of the Apple accessories sold and fulfilled by Amazon were counterfeit. Amazon was sourcing and selling items without properly determining if they are genuine. Mobile Star LLC settled with Apple for an undisclosed amount on April 27, 2017.
Throughout the store there are features like “Most-Wished-For,” a collection of products that are most added to Amazon.com Wish Lists; “Trending Around NYC,” hot products that NYC-area customers are buying on Amazon.com; “Frequently Bought Together”; and “Amazon Exclusives.” These features, along with customer review cards with quotes from actual customer reviews, make it fun and easy to shop.