Looking back, there is no way anyone could have predicted that a little company whose only purpose was to sell books online would grow to become one of the biggest and most influential companies in the world. Except for maybe the founder and CEO Jeff Bezos who is slowly turning from a smart businessman to a wealthy super villain. Ever since day one, it seemed like books were merely a stepping stone for Bezos and a way to enter the industry, as Amazon continues to invest in or buy businesses and companies. Soon, rather than products having “Made In China” or “Made in USA” on them, everything will say, “Owned by Amazon.”
From revolutionizing the business to helping it grow, Amazon has become a company synonymous with success and money. However, just like every company, it has had its ups and downs and strings of failures and successes. Some products were game changers and others died a horrible death (look at number 13). Being around since 1995, Amazon and Bezos have been through a lot, done a lot, and continue to do so much more. So whether people want to learn the tricks of the trade or simply want to dig deeper into the company they give so much money to every month, here are 20 Facts Everyone Should Know About Amazon!
20 This Isn't A High School Presentation
Believe it or not, the man who created a business around selling books online enjoys reading! This is apparent in the way he runs and structures his meetings, as anyone who runs it has to put in a lot more effort than just a simple power point. In fact, Bezos banned power points from Amazon meetings completely. According to Bezos, Amazon has “the weirdest meeting culture you will ever encounter.” Anyone who runs a meeting has to put together a six-page memo with full sentences and no bullet points that everyone will read silently at the beginning and then recap after. Bezos expects a well-written memo to take someone about a week or more to write.
19 Picking A Name
It took a lot of brainstorming before Jeff Bezos landed on the name Amazon. At first, he wanted to call the company Cadabra, as in Abracadabra, but decided against it after his lawyer told him it sounded too similar to the word cadaver, especially over the phone. Other web names included Awake.com, Browse.com, Bookmall.com, and Relentless.com. Bezos actually enjoyed that last name so much that he bought the domain name and to this day if you type relentess.com into a web browser it will redirect you to amazon.com. In the end, he went with Amazon to suggest scale and because website listings used to be in alphabetical order.
18 That's A Lot Of Zeroes
Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO, became the world’s wealthiest person in 2018, and the first person to top $100 billion! Because of this, he is not simply known as a billionaire, but a centi-billionaire, as he has a net worth of $112 billion. Amazon’s massive Black Friday helped propel Bezo’s over $100 billion and led to him having the biggest one year gain ever with $39 billion. He also has the biggest gap ever between number one and two on the Forbes list as Bill Gates is in second with a net worth of $90 billion. Plus, Bezos owns 16% or 78.9 million shares of the online retail juggernaut company.
17 The King Of Holidays
Online shopping is becoming more popular every day, as people want to purchase items from the comfort of their home and not have to deal with crowds and lines, especially during the holidays. And when it comes to holiday shopping online, Amazon is currently the king. In 2017, Amazon generated 50% of all Black Friday online revenue, pulling in over $1 billion in sales in 24 hours and $5.03 billion during the entire weekend. They also attributed to half of all online retail sales in 2017. On top of that, e-commerce made up 9.1% of all retail sales in 2017 and Amazon made up 4% of that!
16 Reading Between The Lines
Back when Amazon only sold books, they didn’t keep any inventory. Instead, anytime someone ordered a book, Amazon would buy it from a distributor, have it shipped to their head office and then repackage and send it to the customer. However, book distributors required that people order 10 books at a time. This rule would have bankrupted Amazon if they had never discovered the loophole that they didn’t need to buy 10 books, they just had to place an order for 10. So, they would order the book they needed and then 9 copies of a book about lichens that was always out of stock.
15 Mark It Down On The Calendar
Apparently, Amazon wasn’t content with the amount of money they made during the holiday season so they created another holiday, called Amazon Prime Day. It started in 2015 and takes place during the second week of July but the duration has expanded every year since. The deals are not advertised ahead of time and it is only accessible to Amazon Prime members. In 2017, the most sold item worldwide was the Echo Dot and the most sold item in the US was the Instant Pot. This is a huge day for Amazon, as last year it had the second largest single sales day in Amazon history behind only Cyber Monday 2017.
14 Climbing The Ladder
Amazon opened for business in July 1995 and went public on May 15, 1997. Back then, the stock was valued at $18 a share and the market value of the company was around $438 million. It was attributed to the fact that at that point Amazon carried over 2.5 million titles, made $148 million in sales that year and had 1.5 million customers in more than 150 countries. However, even with success early on, it took Amazon six years to finally turn a profit. Now, Amazon stock prices have reached an all-time high this year at $1,686.94 a share, increasing over 300% over the last three years, and bringing the market value to $475 billion!
13 The Telephone Game
In 2014, Amazon tried to break into the phone market by releasing the Fire Phone. The goal was to compete with the iPhone and Android phones but it flopped and cost the company $170 million! The phone was discontinued a year later. However, failure in one area led to success in another and in 2015, they launched the Amazon Echo, the first-ever digital home assistance device. It wasn’t an immediate success, but it has gained traction thanks to Apple and Google releasing their own versions and bringing more eyes to the product, which led to over 22 million homes having an Amazon Echo in them in 2017.
12 Quiet On The Set!
Amazon broke into the entertainment industry in 2010 by launching Amazon Studios. It got off to a slow start as they merely took in thousands of movie and TV scripts submitted online and didn’t exactly disclose what the game plan was. Soon, it became apparent that they were getting into the streaming game and taking a page out of Netflix’s book. However, Amazon Studios has become much more than that, specifically an Oscar-winning company. In 2016, they bought the rights to the film Manchester by the Sea for a whopping $10 million, and in 2017 became the first streaming company to receive a best picture Oscar nomination for said movie.
11 The More The Merrier
Back in 1998, during the early stages of Amazon, they were completely understaffed when they had their first major Christmas rush. To keep up with the high demand, every employee had to work a graveyard shift and they would even bring in their family and friends to help out. To make sure this never happens again, Amazon hires a lot of seasonal workers during the holidays. In 2017, they hired more than 120,000 seasonal employees from 33 states in various roles. That’s on top of the already 125,000 full-time employees that work in 75 fulfillment centers, so it's safe to say they will never be understaffed again, even if they take over 100% of the online retail market.
10 Not An Ideal Way To Run A Business
Anyone who was computer savvy enough back in the late '90s had the opportunity to make an easy buck at the expense of Amazon. No stranger to loopholes himself, Bezos was affected by one too in the early stages of the company. In what Bezos refers to as his favourite software bug of all-time, any time a customer would order a negative quantity of books on the website, Amazon would credit that customers credit card with that price. Obviously, the issue was fixed the second it was discovered, however, why not give it a shot just in case. You never know!
9 Why Stop At Books
Jeff Bezos seems to have his sights set on taking over the entire world as Amazon has bought, acquired or invested in at least 128 businesses and companies over the last 20 years. They’ve dabbled in pretty much everything, as they have investments or businesses that deal with artificial intelligence, clothing, food, entertainment, publishing, and transportation. Some of the companies Amazon has purchased include the movie database IMDb in 1999 for $250 million in stock, Audible, the leader in audiobooks, for $300 million in cash in 2008, the video game streaming site Twitch for $970 million in 2014 and Whole Foods Market in 2017 for $13.7 billion.
8 Humble Beginnings
Amazon started in Bezos’ garage with only a handful of employees. To generate enough power to run the business, he had to run extension cords from every outlet in his house to the workspace, which resulted in a fuse being blown if anything else, like a vacuum, was plugged in.
They even had a bell installed that would ring every time someone made a purchase and everyone would look to see if they knew who the customer was, as it was typically a family member.
After a few weeks, they had to shut the bell off because sales were happening all the time, as it only took one month for Amazon to sell a book in all 50 states and 45 different countries.
7 I Get Knocked Down
Jeff Bezos has not been shy about the fact that Amazon has engaged in numerous ventures over the years that failed miserably. He said,
“I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.com. None of those things are fun. But they also don’t matter,”
which is apparent as Amazon has had its fair share of failures over the years but remain successful. At one point they launched an auction site to rival eBay called Amazon Auction, a hotel booking site called Amazon Destinations, a peer-to-peer payment service called Webpay to compete with Paypal and a Q&A site called Askville. All of them were shut down but some led to other ideas that wound up finding success.
6 Focus On The Bigger Picture
Amazon is the top Internet retailer in the US, owning 33% of the market and projected to own 50% by 2021. This is because Bezos is more concerned with growth over net income, something his competitors feel the opposite about. Due to this mindset, Amazon is able to invest in other ventures that will generate more money and allow them to have a hand in every market. Another factor is that Bezos obsesses over customers and puts them first over competitors. This can be seen in the way he runs his customer service department, as every employee, including himself, has to take customer service calls for two days every two years.
5 Backbone Of The Internet
Amazon’s hosting service, Amazon Web Services, not only powers their online store but it is also the number one choice for other companies that need a simple and affordable way to power their online store or store their data. Companies like Netflix, Hulu, and McDonald's all use Amazon Web Services, and even companies that develop apps, like the ones behind Tinder and Candy Crush, are on the provider as well. The service is so popular that it ranks “first in market share for cloud infrastructure service,” more than Microsoft, IBM, and Google, combined, and has generated nearly $15 billion in sales for Amazon.
4 Counting The Seconds
Even though Amazon has branched out significantly over the years and gotten involved in numerous industries and services, there is no denying the fact that the bulk of its money comes from Amazon.com and online retail. That is why every second counts and even the slightest hiccup in the system could cost the company millions of dollars.
This became a reality in 2013, when Amazon’s homepage went down for 49 minutes, costing the company an estimated $5.7 million in sales.
To add a bit more perspective to that loss, the company’s net worth in 2012 was $61.09 billion, meaning that they missed out on an average of $116,229.07 worth of sales per minute.
3 Judging A Book By Its Name
Considering Amazon started out purely as a company that sold books, it would be a shame not to include book-related facts! The first book ever purchased and sold on Amazon.com was not a classic novel or some young-adult book, but instead was a research book titled Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanics of Thought. Bezos also used to play a game with his employees that dealt with titles like that one. They would pick weird book titles every week and Bezos would give a prize to whoever found the weirdest one. One of the top winners was Training Goldfish Using Dolphin Training Techniques.
2 One Click Away
Amazon patented the one-click buying process all the way back in 1999, not long after the company was founded and became public. They weren’t the only company to implement this system but they were the only ones allowed to do it for free. Barnes & Noble were sued by Amazon for adding a similar feature and later on Apple licensed it out. It is estimated that one-click buying helped increase Amazon sales by 5%. However, the patent, which was valued at $2.4 billion annually, expired in 2017 and Amazon did not renew it. So, don’t be surprised if a one-click button appears on your favourite online store's website very soon!
1 More Than Enough Room
Amazon’s warehouses, where employees package and ship products to customers, are referred to as fulfillment centers, or FCs. There are over 90 fulfillment centers around the world and with tens of thousands of employees, not including the seasonal staff they hire during the holidays. They are all massive in size but some are larger than others, like the one in Baltimore that is 1 million square feet, or 23 acres, and the fulfillment center located in Phoenix, which is one of the largest at 1.2 million-square feet, or 28 football fields! Basically, employees who work there get more than enough exercise every single day, as one employee claimed he walked 13 miles a day.
References: businessinsider.com, msn.com, forbes.com, cnbc.com, inc.com, markets.businessinsider.com, latimes.com, money.cnn.com, nasdaq.com, time.com, youtube.com, investopedia.com, recode.net, complex.com, wired.com, digiday.com, engadget.com, bizjournals.com, mentalfloss.com