In the fast-growing world of e-commerce, there’s Amazon and then there’s everyone else. The Seattle-based company, which Jeff Bezos launched as “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore” in 1995, has become a digital innovator that’s left virtually no industry untouched. In addition to all the stuff it will deliver to your door, Amazon is now a leader in cloud services, publishing, payments, and entertainment.
Through Amazon Marketplace, it’s also created a vast village green where users can buy and sell items without ever leaving the site. With Amazon Home Services, people can now find babysitters, tutors, and 900 other services as well. It’s this breadth that has inspired customer loyalty that’s unparalleled among major retailers and increased Amazon’s brand value 29 percent, to USD $37.9 billion, in this year’s Best Global Brands ranking.
This all stems from Bezos’ vision for creating what he calls the “world’s most consumer-centric company.” And nothing captures that vision quite like Amazon Prime. What began as a loyalty program, offering members free two-day shipping on select products, has expanded to include services like streaming video, music, cloud storage, and an e-book lending library—and Amazon continues to test and launch new services including Prime Pantry and Prime Now.
Prime hit fever pitch during its July 2015 event, Prime Day. This highly successful marketing ploy helped the brand beat its record 2014 Black Friday sales, exponentially increasing traffic, and, most importantly, customer acquisition, with some hundreds of thousands signing up to take advantage of the day’s bargains. It even benefited competitors like Walmart, which took advantage of the flood of online shoppers by announcing its own sale. While Amazon doesn’t disclose its Prime membership status, RBC Capital Markets estimates the number is around 50 million in the U.S. and up to 80 million worldwide. The bulk of those members spend at least $800 per year on the site.
In July, the Wall Street Journal reported that Amazon, known for sacrificing short-term profits in order to pursue long-term investments, had posted “surprising profits,” crediting operational efficiencies and even the use of robotics to lower costs.
With new innovations like the hands-free, always ready Amazon Echo and the Dash Button that reorders frequently used consumables with the touch of a button, a move into meal delivery, and an ever-expanding roster of streamed content, there doesn’t seem much that Amazon isn’t poised to take on.