Internet retailer Amazon claims to offer "Earth's Biggest Selection", a mammoth range of products which now goes far beyond 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 mainly 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. 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 one of the global leaders in cloud storage (though AWS or Amazon Web Services). It also made a renewed commitment to increase its profit, 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 in recent years has elevated founder and CEO Jeff Bezos to the role of the world's richest man. He also owns the Washington Post newspaper. Amazon's revenues rose by almost a third in 2018, and by another fifth in 2019 to $280.5bn. Net income hit new highs of $11.5bn. The AWS cloud storage division alone accounted for more than three-quarters of profits but only 12% of group revenues. The group disclosed that physical store sales - primarily Whole Foods - were down very slightly year-on-year at $17.2bn. Amazon is also now one of the world's biggest advertisers by expenditure as well as the #3 in digital ad revenues after Google and Facebook.
Capsule checked 28th March 2019
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Adbrands Daily Update 29th Jun 2020: Amazon has agreed to acquire US self-driving car developer Zoox to boost its autonomous delivery program. The deal is reported to be worth around $1.2bn, well below the $3.2bn valuation of Zoox in its last round of fund-raising. The tech company has been working on a self-driving electric taxi, which could now be adapted to deliver packages for Amazon.
Adbrands Daily Update 23rd Mar 2020: Disney, Netflix, Amazon, Google's YouTube and Facebook have all agreed to downgrade streaming quality by at least 25% throughout Europe to reduce the pressure on broadband networks during Coronavirus lockdown. Demand is now reaching peak levels throughout the day because of home working and an even greater requirement for entertainment, and is expected to hit new highs this week with the launch of Disney+. Disney even agreed to a request from the French government to delay the launch of its streaming service in France for another two weeks until early April.
Adbrands Daily Update 2nd Jan 2020: "Temptations". There are better ways you could be using your smartphone; that's the message from UK indie Fold7 in a visually inventive spot for Amazon's audiobook service Audible. It's a more populist approach, perhaps, than Audible has previously tried. Recent campaigns have tended to demonstrate positive benefits like the high quality of Audible's actor narrators. This one exploits that guilt we all feel that we could and should be doing something more worthwhile with our spare time than scrolling Instagram Explore or dating apps or takeway options. It's probably the perfect angle for self-improving New Year penitents.
Adbrands Daily Update 25th Oct 2019: After a run of record results in recent years, Amazon tempered investors' expectations with a significantly weaker than expected 3Q profit and conservative guidance for the holiday season. Operating income in the main retail division fell sharply in 3Q as a result of heavy investment in same-day delivery services, which Jeff Bezos sees as crucial to differentiate Amazon from other online retailers. That was partly offset by further spectacular growth in the AWS cloud computing business. Revenues for 3Q came in well above expectations, but the company's revised forecast for the 4Q holiday season was lower than analysts had predicted. Jefferies analyst Brent Thill concluded "The key takeaway is they are shifting from harvest mode to investment mode and it's coming at the cost of the bottom line... Suddenly we are back to the old Amazon." The results prompted a 9% overnight fall in Amazon's share price, wiping $80bn off its market cap.
Adbrands Daily Update 15th Oct 2019: According to research from eMarketer, Amazon is now the #2 in US search advertising behind Google, after overtaking Microsoft last year. The etail giant is also the fastest-growing in the sector, with revenues up 30% this year alone. "Amazon's ad business has attracted massive increases in spending because advertisers can reach consumers during product queries, a time when they're ready to buy," said eMarketer principal analyst Nicole Perrin. "Amazon has also rolled out better measurement and targeting tools, making it even more attractive for advertisers." Google still accounts for over 73% of US search advertising - equivalent to around $40.3bn this year - but Amazon is #2, albeit some way behind at almost 13%, or $7.1bn. Microsoft has around 6.5% of the market.
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