From the earliest days, it was clear to me (and a few others, obviously) that Amazon was no ordinary company, at any level. However, three attributes set it (far) apart in my mind:
- Vision and ambition that were orders of magnitude beyond those of others team that I encountered (until, that is, I met Google);
- A cult-like dedication to customer experience/satisfaction that permeated every decision made by every person at the company; and,
- A business model that not only valued long-term cash flow and absolute profit potential, but also deemed near-term profits and profit margin largely irrelevant.
Individually, these characteristics have been powerful; in combination, they have been revolutionary. Jeff Bezos’ worldview gave his entire team permission — in fact, it gave them the mandate — to think Big, with a capital “B.” Customers’ pure delight with every Amazon interaction gave the company permission to sell (almost) anything to (almost) anyone.
And, finally, management’s clarity of financial intent (i.e., to perpetually focus on long-term potential) has, from day one, conditioned shareholders and Wall Street to expect a business that will forever be amorphous and unpredictable, with razor-thin margins.
. . . .
Liberated from more typical corporate constraints, Amazon has evolved like few other companies in history — from its humble origins as an online bookstore into: Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute, Amazon Marketplace, Amazon Flexible Payments Service, state-of-the-art warehouses (~70) everywhere, Amazon Cloud Player, AmazonFresh, Amazon Mechanical Turk, Amazon Prime, A9, Amazon Simple Storage Service, Diapers.com, Silk, Amazon Cloud Drive, Zappos, Amazon CloudFront, Kindle, and so on.
Sound familiar? It should, because this transformation mirrors that of Google, itself, which began as “just” a search engine company focused on “organizing the world’s information,” and has now become: Gmail, Maps, Apps, Drive, Chrome, Android, Motorola, YouTube, Wallet, Voice, Google Cloud Storage, Shopping, Chromebook, Google App Engine, Google+, and so on.
While not perfectly matching each other solution-for-solution, Amazon and Google now find themselves overlapping across, and competing within, most major categories of Internet-fueled technology and business.
. . . .
I actually think there’s one final aspect to Amazon’s business with which Google cannot (yet) directly compete, and which may prove to be the difference-maker in this faux-ish battle: Data.
With 17+ years of history and hundreds of millions of transactions across almost every category of goods, Amazon now has massive quantities of data about the actual buying habits of tens, if not hundreds, of millions of consumers around the globe.
. . . .
Armed with this unique transaction- and SKU-specific data, at scale, Amazon.com has the potential to become one of, if not the most signficant advertising platforms in the world, in my view — matching, if not besting, Google.
. . . .
For instance, do you think Volvo, Toyota, Lexus, Ford, et al., might be willing to pay a small fortune to be introduced to an individual in Huntington Beach, CA, who suddenly begins buying newborn diapers by the pallet? What about Gymboree? Gerbers? Whole Foods? Safeway? Fab? Gap? Pottery Barn? Ross? Home Depot?