Amazon started as an online bookstore and it turned out to be the largest online retailer in the planet. It is also known as “The Everything Store,” as anything you might need from A to Z can be found on this virtual store.
Founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994 in his garage in Seattle, Washington, Amazon now has distribution centers all over the United States. It also boasts an international presence as it owns separate websites worldwide for the US, the United Kingdom and Ireland, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Brazil, Mexico, China, India, Japan, and Australia.
Amazon was born because of Bezos’ interest with online retailing. The idea of starting an Internet-based business was fueled by the statistics that said World Wide Web usage increased by 2,300% every month. Bezos quickly recognized the vast potential of selling online, so he listed 20 potential products he could sell via the web, but decided later on to start with books.
In 1994, Bezos decided to leave his senior vice president post at Wall Street investment firm D.E. Shaw & Co. to work on an electronic retailing business plan. He chose to move to Seattle with his wife MacKenzie and start his business there, as it was in close proximity to the Oregon warehouse of Ingram Book Group.
He started his new company on July 5, 1994 and chose a magical word – Cadabra – as a name for it. However, he changed his mind about it after it was misheard as “cadaver” by his lawyer.
Bezos considered other names, such as Relentless. In September 1994, Bezos bought the web address Relentless.com. The name stayed only briefly as Bezos’ friends thought it was sinister. However, the URL was still owned by Bezos as it still redirects to Amazon.com today.
Bezos finally came up with Amazon after browsing a dictionary. Amazon was an exotic and different place, and the name sounded good for his business. Also, since the Amazon River is the largest river in the world, he settled on it because he wanted his online store to also be the biggest in the world. The company’s original logo was based on the Amazon River. Moreover, website listings that time were alphabetical, so he believed it was good to go with a name which starts with “A.”
Amazon’s first ever sale occurred in 1995, for a book entitled Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought by Douglas Hofstadter. In 1996, the company was reincorporated in Delaware. The following year, it filed an initial public offering for $18 per share, and traded under NASDAQ symbol AMZN. It also opened its second warehouse in Delaware in 1997, expanding its distribution network beyond Seattle.
By June 1998, Amazon had expanded beyond books and added music to its product offering. It also expanded into Europe by establishing websites in UK and Germany. That year, the company also acquired IMDb, or the Internet Movie Database.
As the company continued to become popular, Time magazine has featured Jeff Bezos as Person of the Year in 1999, calling him as the “King of Cybercommerce” for popularizing online shopping.
During the turn of the 21st century, Amazon changed its logo featuring the company name with a smile-shaped curved arrow connecting A to Z, to emphasize that the company offers all items from A to Z. It came along with the launch of Amazon Marketplace, wherein companies and individuals were allowed to sell new or second-hand items using the Amazon platform.
In the fourth quarter of 2001, Amazon reported its first profit. Don’t feel bad about it though; Bezos’ initial business plan was that the company would not expect to earn for four to five years to focus first on brand recognition. Plus, Amazon survived the dot-com bubble burst during the start of the century, while many other e-companies crashed, closed, or filed bankruptcy.
Amazon continued to expand in the early 2000s. In 2002, the company launched Amazon Web Services, a cloud computing platform. In 2003-2004, Amazon’s products included jewelery and shoes. Amazon also reached Asia in 2004 as it acquired Joyo, an online bookstore in China, which later became Amazon China. Lots of features and upgrades were also incorporated with the platform, and the company teamed up with many companies to offer their products through Amazon.
In line with its vision to be the world’s most consumer-centric company, the Amazon Prime was launched in 2005. Prime was a membership subscription that offered free two-day shipping within the contiguous United States for an annual fee of $79. (The price has increased to $99 per year in 2017.) Amazon Prime eventually offered exclusive access to music, videos, and more as the years passed by. Two years later, Prime was also launched in the UK.
The year 2007 was full of new beginnings for Amazon. It offered home grocery delivery service in August with the launch of AmazonFresh, opened an online music store in September named Amazon Music, and debuted its own e-book reader in November – the Amazon Kindle. Kindle was Amazon’s biggest invention and it has contributed greatly to the company’s revenues. By 2010, Amazon announced that e-book sales for Kindle outnumbered the sales of hardcover books for the first time in history.
The company’s growth and success were sustained through the years. In 2009, Amazon acquired Zappos.com, an online shoe and apparel retailer. The year later, Amazon started its own original content creator for its video streaming services, Amazon Studios.
In 2011, the Amazon Video service was re-branded as the Amazon Instant Video, adding 5,000 more content offered for Prime members. The Amazon Appstore for Android was also launched that year, making the service available in around 200 countries.
During the same year, Amazon debuted its own tablet computer, the Kindle Fire, which ran on the Fire operating system, a customized version of Android OS. The tablet was intended to compete with Apple’s iPad with its lower price. Kindle Fire was later renamed as Fire, and has spread also to two more models: Fire HD and Fire HDX with different generations.
By 2013, Amazon began its expansion to India, and also acquired GoodReads. Its major plan that year was Prime Air, a drone-based delivery service. The first successful delivery happened in the UK in December 2016.
Amazon continued to introduce technological innovations during the decade. Even with the strong but already established competition in the smartphone market, Amazon made a solid effort to participate with the launch of Amazon Fire in 2014, the company’s first smartphone that ran on Fire OS. However, the Fire phone flopped due to lack of apps and had no newer versions to date.
That same year, Amazon Echo was introduced. Echo is a wireless speaker and voice command device for smart homes powered by Alexa – an intelligent personal assistant developed by the company.
As Amazon works to make life easier and less costly for its consumers, it launched Amazon Restaurants in Seattle in 2015. This new service delivers food from nearby restaurants. It also launched an Android app named Amazon Underground, which enables users to gain free access to games which otherwise need a fee.
Considering all the products and services Amazon currently offers, the future for this company is exciting. Can you predict what Bezos and his team will be up to next? We will have to wait to find out once they finally do it, as Amazon truly exceeds expectations and defies easy analogy.