Internet retailer Amazon offers "Earth's Biggest Selection", a mammoth range of products which now goes far beyond its original base in books and music to include anything from automobile parts to groceries and from clothing to household furniture. An increasing number of these products, especially in the fashion and personal care sectors, are now own-label rather than third party brands. The business is firmly established as the #1 internet retailer worldwide (though it faces increasingly strong competition from Chinese rivals Alibaba and Tencent, operating primarily in Asia). No other company has done so much to establish the reliability and functionality of e-commerce. But Amazon also historically suffered from low profit margins, and rival companies tended to outpace it in earnings growth. That laggard performance appeared to change after 2007, helped along by the launch of the Kindle electronic reader, which revolutionised Amazon's business model in the same way that the iPod altered Apple. Huge subsequent investments in infrastructure and technology prompted another slump in profitability in the 2010s. However, the evolution of the Kindle device and its various offshoots, including the Echo home speaker, the Alexa AI virtual assistant and the rapid evolution of the Prime membership club has seen the emergence of a new role for Amazon as an entertainment broadcaster and creator. It has also diversified aggressively, not least through a deal in 2017 to acquire bricks and mortar organic grocery retailer Whole Foods Market for almost $14bn. At the same time, the group expanded its technological infrastructure to become the global leader in cloud storage (through its AWS or Amazon Web Services division). Just as significantly, it made a commitment to increase its profits, not just its revenues. As a result, after a comparatively slow start it has become a diversified technology giant on a par with rivals as such as Apple, Google and Facebook as well as a financial powerhouse. The resulting effect on its stock price elevated founder Jeff Bezos to the position of the world's richest man. (He also owns the Washington Post newspaper). Performance has continued to rocket. Amazon's revenues rose by almost a third in 2018, by another fifth in 2019, and then by a staggering 38% in 2020. The rise in 2021 was lower - 22% - but lifted total sales to $469.8bn. After almost doubling in 2020, net income for 2021 rose 57% to $33.4bn. The AWS cloud storage division alone accounted for more than half of net income but only 13% of group revenues. After a difficult year in 2020 because of pandemic closures, physical stores - including Whole Foods and Amazon's own checkout-free shops - enjoyed a sales uplift in 2021 to $17.1bn. Amazon is also now one of the world's biggest advertisers by expenditure - a staggering $11bn in 2020 - as well as the #3 in digital ad revenues after Google and Facebook, with sales up by 50% in 2021 to $31bn. Jeff Bezos stepped down as CEO in July 2021 (although he remains executive chairman). His successor is Andrew Jassy, previously head of the company's AWS division.
Capsule checked 5th February 2021
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Historical profile information for Amazon
Marketer Moves 27th Apr 2022: New CMO at Amazon Zappo's. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Marketer Moves 20th Apr 2022: New VP development at at Amazon Ads. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Update 17th Mar 2022: Amazon completed its $8.5bn acquisition of legendary movie studio MGM following a ten-month investigation by regulators. The deal gives Amazon control of MGM's substantial post-war movie and TV library, comprising more than 4,000 films and 17,000 hours of TV. Assets include the James Bond and Rocky franchises and classic including 'Thelma & Louise', 'The Silence of the Lambs', 'The Magnificent Seven' and 'Raging Bull'. TV shows include 'The Handmaid's Tale', 'Shark Tank' and 'Survivor'. "We are excited for MGM and its bounty of iconic brands, legendary films and television series, and our incredible team and creative partners to join the Prime Video family," said MGM COO Chris Brearton.
Marketer Moves 7th Dec 2021: New CEO at Amazon DACH. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 18th Nov 2021: Amazon threw down the gauntlet to Visa in a long-running battle over credit card charges. It informed all its UK customers that it will stop accepting locally-issued Visa credit cards from mid-January 2022. That would represent a significant blow to British customers: Visa has around 80% share of the local credit card market. The row appears to relate to "interchange" fees which all card companies levy on transactions, supposedly to cover the cost of payment processing. These are capped in the EU at 0.3% for credit card transactions, but now that the UK has left the EU, Visa has announced plans to raise the fee to 1.5%. Amazon has also recently introduced a surcharge on Visa credit transactions in Australia and Singapore.
Marketer Moves 1st Oct 2021: New CEO designate at Whole Foods Market. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 25th May 2021: Amazon is to acquire storied movie studio MGM for almost $9bn including debt. It is the company's second largest ever after the purchase of Whole Foods four years ago (for $13.7bn). The acquisition will give Amazon control of an important library of around 4,000 movies. It doesn't include classics from MGM's "Golden Age" before 1948, such as 'Wizard of Oz' and others, which were sold several years ago to what is now Warner Bros. But the portfolio does include the James Bond, Pink Panther, Robocop and Rocky franchises and a huge number of other releases, as well as 17,000 hours of television. MGM owns a busy TV production studio whose recent hits include 'The Handmaid's Tale', 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills', 'Fargo' and Amazon Prime series 'Vikings'. The deal price is around $6.5bn and Amazon will assume almost $2bn of MGM's debt.
Adbrands Daily Update 6th Apr 2021: Amazon is becoming a significant force in digital advertising. According to market watcher eMarketer, the ecommerce giant's share of US digital ads jumped from less than 8% in 2019 to 10.3% last year, or over $15.7bn. The bulk of that business comprises search-related ads on Amazon's own ecommerce pages. That's still some way behind Google (28.9%) and Facebook (25.2%), but Amazon's share is rising, mostly at Google's expense, while Facebook is mostly flat. eMarketer predicts that Amazon will continue to grow over the next three years, hitting 12.8% in 2023. Over the same period, Google is expected to fall to 26.6%. "You can see Amazon gaining share, Google losing share, and Facebook stable and gaining a tiny bit," says eMarketer analyst Nicole Perrin. "A big reason for that is Facebook isn't doing search ads and that's where Amazon is really competing."
Adbrands Daily Update 3rd Feb 2021: Amazon posted spectacular results for the final quarter of 2020, lifting revenues for the full year by an astonishing 38% - a combined total over $100bn - to $386.1bn. Net income almost doubled to $21.3bn. Growth was spread evenly across the group's three main operating segments, but in fact cloud division Amazon Web Services - an engine of much of the group's pre-pandemic growth - actually lagged behind the two ecommerce divisions with a revenues uplift of just 30%, compared to 38% in North America sales and services and 40% in international markets. As a result, Jeff Bezos seized the opportunity to announce a transition in leadership later this year. He will move to the role of executive chairman in Q3, to be succeeded as CEO by Andy Jassy, currently head of the AWS business. "Amazon is what it is because of invention," he said. " We do crazy things together and then make them normal... If you do it right, a few years after a surprising invention, the new thing has become normal. People yawn. That yawn is the greatest compliment an inventor can receive. When you look at our financial results, what you're actually seeing are the long-run cumulative results of invention. Right now I see Amazon at its most inventive ever, making it an optimal time for this transition."
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