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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.
In 2013, Amazon secured a US$600 million contract with the CIA, which poses a potential conflict of interest involving the Bezos-owned The Washington Post and his newspaper's coverage of the CIA. Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, said, "It's a serious potential conflict of interest for a major newspaper like The Washington Post to have a contractual relationship with the government and the most secret part of the government." This was later followed by a US$10 billion contract with the Department of Defence.
Prime started as a two-day shipping membership for devoted Amazon shoppers, and it didn’t add any additional benefits until 2011. However, since then, Prime has grown into a subscription service with more than 100 million paid users worldwide, while the service itself has evolved to include additional perks over the years, including a Prime credit card now with 5 percent cash back. (Amazon also operates Amazon Pay for purchasing online goods elsewhere with your Amazon account, and the Amazon Cash service for translating cash into store credit using a barcode, although neither are restricted to Prime users.)
Foregoing private stores or other online alternatives, a large number of individuals and businesses prefer to sell through Amazon.com. With more than 95 million unique visitors each month, Amazon can be an ideal place for vendors looking to increase sales or simply unload items they no longer want or need. And because Amazon enjoys a generally positive reputation with its customers, the site can be a great place for sellers to build brand recognition for their businesses.
On the logistics side, Amazon has for years been building out a network of delivery workers, fulfillment centers, trucks, cargo planes, and freighters to move products from manufacturers to customers at speeds once thought impossible. The company is now facilitating sea freight shipments, leasing Boeing cargo planes, building a $1.5 billion air cargo hub in Kentucky, and expanding its own UPS and FedEx competitor called Shipping with Amazon, or SWA. All of this is an effort to establish a global logistics network that no one company will be able to compete with.
Now when you shop with Amazon.com, a portion of your purchase will help support the work of the American Institute for Cancer Research. Through AmazonSmile, a website operated by Amazon, you can enjoy the same wide selection of products, low prices, and convenient shopping features as on Amazon.com. The difference is that when you shop on AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to AICR.
Perhaps the most prominent Prime perk, however, is access to Amazon Prime Video. The video on-demand service started in 2006 as Amazon Unboxed, but was rebranded in 2008 and integrated into the Prime service three years later, where it became a huge selling point for Amazon’s annual subscription. It now boasts thousands of free TV shows, films, and games, all accessible on pretty much every screen available.
Given that trust, Amazon has only escalated up its expansion into more industries and markets over the years, with that expansion accelerating since the introduction of the first Amazon Echo speaker with Alexa a little less than four years ago. To fully comprehend just how big the company has grown over the last 25 years, we’ve put together a guide on every major sector, product category, and market Amazon has entered into either by developing its own products or services, or by acquiring an existing provider with an established position.
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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.
Sign up for Amazon Family and a Prime account to get special offers, coupons and discounts on family-oriented items. If you aren't a Prime member, you'll get a 5% discount on baby food and diaper subscriptions. Prime members get an additional 15% off with five or more active subscriptions. Get a 15% discount code and a free Welcome Box when you sign up for the Baby Registry.
Amazon employs a multi-level e-commerce strategy. Amazon started by focusing on business-to-consumer relationships between itself and its customers and business-to-business relationships between itself and its suppliers and then moved to facilitate customer-to-customer with the Amazon marketplace which acts as an intermediary to facilitate transactions. The company lets anyone sell nearly anything using its platform. In addition to an affiliate program that lets anyone post-Amazon links and earn a commission on click-through sales, there is now a program which lets those affiliates build entire websites based on Amazon's platform.
If you’re registering as a business, you will be asked to supply your business name, the business’ contact information, your credit card information and tax identification number. You will also be asked to verify your phone number by supplying a 4-digit pin during an automated call or text. The process is generally fast and sellers can begin listing items immediately.
Look at shipping costs. While items may not cost to ship at purchase, how much does it cost to return it in case it wasn’t what you’re after? “If you have to pay for shipping or return shipping it may be smarter to look elsewhere because the delivery fees could cancel out the savings,” says Woroch. “Knowing these details ahead of time is key to saving money and your sanity.”
Yet despite having a hand in so many different industries, consumers largely trust Amazon with everything from their personal information and buying habits to the literal conversations they have in their own homes. According to a study The Verge conducted in partnership with consulting firm Reticle Research last year, Amazon is the most-liked and trusted technology brand by a wide margin. One likely explanation there is that the company has a strong relationship with its customers, thanks in part to its zealous commitment to low prices and a seemingly never-ending quest to make modern life more convenient.
But Amazon has been testing its drones for years and performed the first public demo delivery in the US last year. Meanwhile, it continues to submit outlandish patents about its vision for the future of drone delivery, including one for a self-destructing drone that disassembles itself in an emergency and a delivery drone mothership of sorts that would act as a city’s central hub for package-carrying UAVs.
Robert Nava is the owner of National Parks Depot and an ex-con who never thought he’d end up a highly successful ecommerce storeowner. Today, National Parks Depot pulls in $80,000 a month selling all kinds of outdoor gear and wear for camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, cycling, rafting and scuba activities. Robert says building his ecommerce store through Shopify was one of the easiest things he’s ever done.
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