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Amazon Business Case Study [2024]: In-depth Analysis

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22nd Feb, 2023
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Amazon Business Case Study [2024]: In-depth Analysis

How does an online book retailer become a behemoth dominating the global e-commerce industry? The 28-year-old history of Amazon’s growth is a masterclass in building a successful business strategy that has revolutionised the retail experience forever! The company has achieved eponymous status with a global presence and diversified business. No wonder its sales are expected to reach an astounding USD 746.22 billion with a valuation of USD 2 trillion in 2024! From being an online bookseller headquartered in a garage to becoming the second most valuable brand in the world, the saga of this global brand is a case study in all the leading business schools.  

So what is the secret behind the explosive success of Amazon? This article provides a comprehensive case study of Amazon and its winning business strategy. 

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Glimpsing Back: A Brief History of Amazon

With a small team, the budding company made headway in the book-selling market by offering a wide virtual selection of books compared to brick-and-mortar stores with doorstep delivery. With a user-friendly interface, easy-to-search engine, and focus on creating a ‘virtual community,’ the business grew by leaps and bounds. The emphasis on customer choice, experience, and convenience serves the company well even today. 

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The name was aspirational with a nod to the largest river in the world- Bezos’ Amazon sought to be the largest e-commerce bookseller in the world. By July 1995, Amazon was marketing itself as the “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore,” selling over one million titles to all 50 states in the US and across 45 countries. It provided stiff competition to brick-and-mortar giants like Barnes and Noble and Borders. 

The company went public with its IPO in 1997; since then, there has been no looking back. Since its listing, the company has significantly diversified its offering by including music, electronics, toys, kitchen utensils, clothes, and more on its e-commerce site. From the Earth’s Biggest Bookstore, Amazon shifted its tagline to “Books, Music and More.” The company expanded to Germany and the United Kingdom by purchasing online bookstores, thus increasing its revenue. At its core, the company established a dynamic, efficient, and successful distribution and logistical model that helped capture a global market.

The year 1999 marked two critical moments for Amazon. First, the company patents the “1-Click” technology allowing users to purchase a product with one click. Second, it launches the 3rd party seller marketplace to allow third-party sellers to sell their produce through Amazon. These measures exponentially increased the sales on the platform. The company’s success put Bezos on the map as he received the prestigious accolade of the “Time’s Person of the Year” in 1999 at 35 years of age. 

The company survived the dot-com bubble burst and got only stronger. In 2003, the company took a momentous step by launching Amazon Web Services, a web-hosting business, that marked its arrival into the tech business. It provides cloud computing services to individual developers, companies, and governments through the platform’s IT infrastructure. The strategic shift from an e-commerce platform to a tech company was instrumental in Amazon’s diversification strategy and revenue generation. 

The company took further measures to develop brand loyalty through its Amazon Prime program in 2005. Prime membership has since expanded its services significantly and is one of the most valuable assets for the company today. It reshaped consumer expectations and experiences of shopping across the world. 

Amazon has been on a path of extensive acquisition and alliance. From the online shoe retailer Zappos to the robotics company Kiva Systems and the grocery delivery service Whole Foods- each acquisition captured pre-existing markets and distribution networks of the acquired assets. With every move, the company strategically entered new markets, removed competitive businesses by acquiring them, made distribution and logistics more efficient, and improved consumer experience. These moves catapulted the company to a 1 trillion dollar valuation in 2018. The company’s profits surged during the pandemic as Bezos’ hourly wealth increased by USD 11.7 million. The following year, Bezos stepped down as the CEO and found his replacement in Andy Jassy, the CEO of Amazon Web Services.

Now that we know the history of Amazon, its business strategy becomes easier to decipher. Before we unravel its key business strategies, let’s look at its many businesses. 

Amazon and its Diversified Business Model

A case study of Amazon is incomplete without an understanding of the many businesses that it has a foot in. Here are the diverse businesses that help Amazon generate revenues from multiple streams and have made it a leader in the global market. 

Online retail store

Amazon began as an online seller of books, and it continues its operations as an e-commerce site. Today the site offers a variety of products for the best prices to the consumer’s doorsteps. With an easy-to-use interface, easy return policy, “1-Click” buying, customer reviews, and suggestions, the e-commerce site knits an unrivalled retail experience. 

Amazon Marketplace

Amazon opened its platform to third-party sellers who could leverage its large customer base to sell products. It brings a diversity of products to the retailer without holding inventory. Amazon would, in turn, charge the sellers a percentage of their revenue as a commission fee. It is estimated that third-party sellers generate a gross merchandise value (GMV) of USD 300 billion for the platform.

Amazon Web Services (AWS)

Amazon’s cloud platform offers individual developers, start-ups, established businesses, and governments a range of cloud computing services through its IT infrastructure. It is the fastest-growing business segment for the brand clocking a global net revenue of USD 80.1 billion in 2022. 

Amazon Prime

Amazon’s member subscription service offers numerous membership benefits ranging from access to digital video and music streaming, audiobook and ebook platforms, free delivery, exclusive deals, Prime Day access, and much more. The company’s global net revenue from its subscription services stood at USD 35.22 billion in 2022. 

Amazon Ads

Amazon revealed in 2022 that the advertising wing of the company had generated a revenue of USD 31.2 billion the preceding year. The company offers custom advertising solutions to customers and campaign placements across multiple channels like Fire TV placements, Amazon physical stores, the brand’s homepage, and customised destination pages.

Physical stores

Amazon made an entry into the brick-and-mortar business with the establishment of a physical bookstore in Seattle in 2015. The company has since expanded its physical presence with Amazon Go, Amazon Fresh, Amazon Go Grocery, Whole Foods Market, and Amazon Style. It has sought to transform the real-world shopping experience with its “Just Walk Out Shopping’ experience. 

Breaking Down Amazon’s Business Strategy

Amazon’s business strategy has been innovative and forward-thinking from the get-go. Its path-breaking business model has inspired many but retains its uniqueness in execution. At its core, the company has maintained its customer-centric ethos, where its customers comprise three sets: retail customers, seller customers, and developer customers.   

For a comprehensive case study of Amazon, let’s take a closer look at the secret recipe behind its success.

Customer Obsession

The company proudly proclaims that it aims to be the “Earth’s most customer-centric company.” Since its inception, Amazon has won over the trust and loyalty of its customers by perfecting its marketing mix by offering “a comprehensive selection of products, low prices, fast and free delivery, easy-to-use functionality, and timely customer service.”  As Amazon’s customer base and usage expands exponentially, the company has worked towards optimising user experience through continuous assessment and feedback mechanisms.

Diversification

Amazon has kept up with the emerging demands of the market with growth potential in the long term. Its future-oriented vision has helped the company grow by leaps and bounds by venturing into new businesses that have added to its revenue streams. From cloud computing services to OTT services and subscription-based benefits, Amazon has reinvented what a diversified business looks like. 

Expansion through partnerships and acquisitions

Amazon has continually acquired and partnered with businesses to expand its customer base, enter new markets, diversify its product offerings, eliminate competition, and gain distribution and logistical networks. From IMDB and The Washington Post to Twitch and Pillpack, Amazon has bought companies across multiple categories to gain a foothold in their markets and operations. It has helped the company scale up its functions rapidly across the globe.

Technologically-driven innovations

Initially, Amazon was written off as it was started by “computer guys” who knew nothing about selling books. However, it was a focus on innovative technology that the company grew into a tech giant dominating the e-commerce space. Whether it is the 1-Click technology, SEO, user interface, cloud computing services, Just Walk Out technology, or its e-devices, the company has optimised customer experience by leveraging technology.

Data-based metrics

Amazon has consistently relied on metrics to assess, strategise, and grow its business. Data is an invaluable currency left behind with every click by the customer. The company has effectively and efficiently amassed these data into actionable insights to improve user experience, build and improve products and services, and develop successful marketing strategies. 

Marketing strategy

A comprehensive marketing strategy has been central to Amazon’s brand-building exercise. With the right marketing mix, the brand has become a household name. Its name and logo are recognisable anywhere in the world. A continual push to diversify its portfolio, competitive pricing policy, expanding its operations, and consistent promotions through multiple channels have been integral to achieving this global status. 

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Conclusion

Amazon, the second-most valuable company in the world, has been almost three decades in the making. Every step and misstep has been strategic and guided by the principles of: “customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking.” This case study of Amazon has sought to highlight its history, business model, and business strategies that have gone into the making of the behemoth. Ultimately, the company is a product of the management of Jeff Bezos and Amazon’s leadership. 

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Jitesh Goel

Blog Author
Jitesh is an experienced Growth Product Manager with a demonstrated history of working in successful startups and expertise in the education-technology domain. His core skills are in analyzing, designing and architecting products to improve user experience and help scale businesses.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1What position does Jeff Bezos currently hold at Amazon?

Jeff Bezos has held the position of Founder and CEO of the company. However, he inherited the position of the Executive Chairman of Amazon after resigning as the CEO of the company in 2021.

2When did Amazon launch in India?

Amazon launched in India in June 2013. Initially starting its operations to serve Indians with books, films, TV shows and subscription-based services, the company further expanded its wings to become one of the leading shopping destinations for Indians.

3What is the focus of Amazon’s business strategy?

The most important focal point of Amazon’s business strategy is its customers (retail customers, sellers, and developers) and building a customer-centric company.