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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 to $386.1bn. Net income almost doubled in the latter year to $21.3bn. The AWS cloud storage division alone accounted for more than half of operating income but only 12% of group revenues. The group disclosed that physical store sales - primarily Whole Foods - fell by 8% as a result of pandemic closures to $16.2bn. 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 of $21bn in 2020. 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

Recent stories from Adbrands Update:

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."

Adbrands Daily Update 18th Nov 2020: As has been anticipated for at least the past two years, Amazon officially entered the prescription retail business this week with the launch of Amazon Pharmacy in the US. This new service is built on the platform provided by online pharmacist PillPack, acquired by Amazon two years ago. Amazon Pharmacy will offer Prime subscribers savings of up to 80% on generic and 40% on brand name medications. Customers will still need a prescription from their physicians, as with any standard pharmacy, and a wide range of common medications are being dispensed. However, Amazon won't sell opioids or any other drugs that are a higher risk for theft. The launch prompted a sharp fall in the share price of traditional pharmacies.

Adbrands Daily Update 2nd Nov 2020: "The Show Must Go On". Quite a different style of campaign here for Amazon from UK agency Lucky Generals. In recent years, Amazon and the Generals have tended to go for jolly singalong spots for the holiday season; but this year's could in truth be for almost any advertiser, the Amazon branding is so low key. However, it acknowledges more directly than most of the other seasonal ads to-date the sort of Thanksgiving and Christmas we will be forced to endure this year. French-born but US-based ballerina Tais Vinolo stars. It's a heart-warming story, told with sensitivity and style, designed not so much to sell a particular product (even portable spotlights) but to put a fuzzy halo around the Amazon brand.

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