Amazon: Still the World’s E-commerce Leader
Amazon.com, which launched during the first Internet boom in 1994, quickly became the largest U.S. e-commerce company and an iconic leader of the U.S. tech sector. Twenty years later, in 2015, the company had become bigger than Walmart in terms of market capitalization, making it the largest retailer in the U.S.
What helped them to become the market leader was its focus on offering as wide an assortment of goods as possible online, backed by the lowest prices. Starting off as an Internet bookseller, Amazon.com quickly expanded into consumer electronics, software, games and video. From there, the assortment of products increased even more, to include every major shopping category.
On the flagship Amazon.com site, there are now shopping categories for books, movies, games, electronics, computers, home and garden, beauty, health, grocery, toys, books, clothing, shoes, jewelry, sports, and outdoors. In addition, there are categories for digital content, such as books and movies, which can be delivered via Wi-Fi to Amazon’s line of digital tablets.
In 2015, retail sales in North America, the UK, Germany and Japan accounted for 95 percent of all revenue. As part of a broader effort to diversify internationally, it has set up 10 different e-commerce marketplaces, including ones in key markets such as China and India, in order to attract global merchants willing to sell on Amazon’s platform. However, due to entrenched local competitors in both China and India, Amazon.com has not had the same success scaling in those markets as in its core North American market.
Besides diversifying shopping categories, Amazon JP has further set a successful example of a global mindset in business, by creating an English version of it’s website. Serving the two million foreign residents living in Japan, the company has strengthened it’s brand even further. In 2014 alone, the Japanese version of the e-commerce giant has recorded yearly sales of $7.64 billion.
The secret to Amazon’s success has been its unparalleled emphasis on getting as close to the customer as possible. Within the U.S. market, for example, Amazon.com has heavily promoted its Prime service as a way of locking in customers. After paying an annual subscription fee, customers get access to free two-day shipping as well as access to exclusive digital content. To make the digital content offer resonate with customers, Amazon.com has invested heavily in proprietary content developed in-house, such as TV shows, which can be viewed on Amazon’s tablets.
Going forward, the company needs to replicate the infrastructure build-out it has in the North American market in order to win market share in Europe, Asia and South America. The more warehouses, call centers and distribution centers the company has, the faster it can get products to customers and the more efficient it can make its supply chain.
In 2015, Amazon.com operated 60 different fulfillment and distribution centers around the U.S. (an average of more than one per state) with a total footprint of 50 million square feet. In comparison, the size of its footprint in China – arguably a larger and more important market than the U.S. – was only one-fifth as big, at 10 million square feet.
Amazon.com, too, will need to address the claims of its rivals, who claim that the company resorts to severe discounting and below-market pricing in order to drive rivals out of business. Moreover, there have been several highly publicized disputes involving the company and content publishers about pricing and distribution.
Given its massive market size, though, and its presence in key European and Asian markets such as Japan, they have become one of the most important Internet retailers in the world. With a long track record of innovation, it appears that they are well positioned for the next big wave of online commerce.
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Great innovators are seldom born, they often emerge from the pain and ashes of great personal losses. Candy Chang’s Public Art Projects are changing communities everywhere and she says it all began after losing someone she loved, and instead of living in her deep depression, she choose to create an interactive wall on an abandoned house in her neighborhood. The wall provided an anonymous place to help restore perspective and share intimately with neighbors her feelings while remaining an introvert.
This resonated with others and became the “Before I Die project,” which took form when she stenciled the words “Before I die I want to _______.” on a chalkboard wall on an abandoned house in New Orleans. Overnight it became a place for people to pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives and share their personal aspirations in public space. There are now 525 Before I Die walls in over 35 languages and over 70 countries.
Candy Chang revisited the chalkboard idea in Fairbanks, Alaska, erecting one outside a high-rise that’s stood empty for a decade. This time locals were prompted to share their memories of what the building had been, and their hopes for what it might become: a gym, a skating rink, an Indian restaurant. After all, says Chang, “the residents who patronize local businesses should have a say in what new businesses open.”
Candy Chang is also the co-founder of a website that allows people to share their suggestions about improving the public spaces in their cities with others who have similar goals. This new digital tool provides residents with the resources needed to enact the changes they’ve suggested and even brings some of projects directly to the attention of policy makers.
Combining urban planning, street art, and graphic design, Candy Chang transforms simple objects like stickers, stencils, and chalkboards into powerful tools that spark conversations in public spaces around the world. In her talks, she poses new strategies for civic life and inspires you to think differently about how you approach your own work.
Through personal stories from her childhood to the present, Candy Chang illustrates how seemingly disparate experiences in countries from Kazakhstan to South Africa to Finland have come together to incite new perspectives and form a coherent philosophy. Carefully crafted for each audience and cultivated from her own evolving questions, Chang’s provocative and intimate talks explore the power of personal introspection in public space and what we can learn from our collective wisdom.
The “Before I Die” book, which includes photographs of lots of walls from around the world, personal stories and visual insights into our aspirations for urban living, was published in November 2013 and has been featured on CNN, TED, and AP News. Candy Chang was also a Keynote speaker at the 2015 Watermark Lead On Conference for Women.