As we bid adieu to 2017, we’re caught up in the year-end ritual of reflections, assessments, predictions and highlights. But this year, we’re not focusing on WHAT defined 2017, we’re taking a slightly unconventional route to look at WHO defined 2017. The answer? It’s the one company we can’t seem to get enough of i.e. Amazon.
Every decade has its defining factor, from business and politics to economic shake-ups and natural phenomenon, there’s always that ONE thing that will come to overshadow everything else that’s happened. In my opinion, this decade belongs to Amazon. While the company has been touted as the next big thing for several reasons, what’s particularly interesting to me is the fact it’s not just pushing the limits of its own ambitions, it’s also pushing everyone else to innovate to keep up the pace. What Amazon has done in the last decade has quite simply introduced a new wave of doing business and is still influencing how businesses will be run in the future.
The myriad of reasons for Amazon’s dominant market position I mentioned earlier, let’s take a closer look at them now.
Going against the tide
At a time when retailers struggle to keep afloat, Amazon acquired retailer Whole Foods for US$13.7 billion. At a time when businesses are pulling back, Amazon has expanded into new markets such as India, South East Asia, Australia and the Middle East and hired over 150,000 employees this year. Today, the company has a staggering workforce of 541,900 people, according to estimates by Statista on Business Insider. So, how exactly did an online book-selling platform become one of the world’s most valued businesses with an estimated valuation of US$458 billion? And where exactly along the way did other businesses lose sight? All evidence points to the company’s CEO (and master planner) Jeff Bezos. His unique management style of betting on big risks underpins Amazon’s success (and maybe some failures). His vision to lead the company towards new horizons can be traced back to as early as 1997 when he said to his investors: “We will make bold rather than timid investment decisions when we see a sufficient probability of gaining market leadership advantages. Some of these investments will pay off, others will not, and we will have learned another valuable lesson in either case.”
Strategy of reinventing, not replacing
With retail, Jeff Bezos has a strategy of rethinking how stores of the future will be rather than completely replacing them with digital stores. That’s exactly why when everyone’s shutting doors on brick and mortar, Amazon is willing to open new ones.
Jack of all trades, master of none?
Whether its physical retail, e-commerce, cloud or even artificial intelligence, it’s hard to ignore the progress Amazon is making. On the surface, it may seem like Amazon has its hands full with its many ventures. And, with the success it’s enjoying across all its verticals, it can do no wrong. But what Amazon has succeeded in doing is ‘getting there first’. By always staying one step ahead of the competition, it forces other companies to play catch-up, ultimately gaining the first-mover advantage.
Focusing on the future
For those that believe Amazon’s core focus is retail, they’re mistaken. Amazon’s core focus is – and has been for quite some time now – disruption. And, the company does disruption well. Bearing this in mind, the influence that the giant will continue to have on the way business is done will be significant, but that doesn’t necessarily define the future of all businesses. Amazon has set the tone through its disruptive ways and has taught us one lesson: the future is what we make of it. And it is up to you, not Amazon, to define that future for your business.