Retailer of the Year: Amazon

By Lola Thélin

Amazon isn’t only the world’s most successful e-commerce site—the everything store is a game changer, a disrupter and a pioneer. Case in point, this past June, Amazon acquired cult-favorite grocer Whole Foods Market, and overnight it became a major player in food and beverages with hundreds of physical outposts. The approximately $13.7 billion merger agreement is only the tipping point of a productive year.

Twenty-three years ago, Jeff Bezos launched Amazon, named after the largest river in the world, as a website that sold books; the tagline was “Earth’s biggest bookstore.” Today’s Amazon is defined as an e-commerce giant, a retail company, a media company and the founder of Kindle, Echo and Fire TV. Its many hats may confuse people, and that’s okay. “Invention requires a long-term willingness to be misunderstood,” Bezos said back in 2009. With stock valued at $956.92 a share, being misunderstood works for the company.

With every new launch or partnership, Amazon keeps its focus on its four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking.

Amazon’s partnership ventures aim to bring ease and convenience to customers. The Sears Holdings Corp.-Amazon deal announced in July brings Kenmore appliances, a leading household brand, to all consumers with the click of a mouse, and Kenmore Smart appliances will be integrated with Amazon Alexa, bringing the smart home of the future even closer to today.

The company also understands the importance of brick-and-mortar locations. Amazon Go, revealed last December, is a Seattle-based grocery store without the checkout lines. Customers use the Amazon Go app, which is equipped with technology that automatically detects when products are removed from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When a customer is done shopping, he or she leaves the store, and the company charges their Amazon Prime account. There’s also the company’s quiet but strong return into bookstores. With eight bookstores already opened, there are another five in the works.

The company stays grounded by contributing to the communities of its more than 300,000 employees. During July and August, hundreds of Seattle-based students attended the “A to Z Experience,” a new STEM summer camp launched by Amazon at its downtown headquarters. It supports Worldreader’s LEAP 2.0 library partnership in Kenya, was the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in 2016, donates millions of dollars to customers’ favorite charities through AmazonSmile, employs more than 10,000 veterans and military spouses, and during disasters donates use of its payments technology to the American Red Cross and Mercy Corps. The list goes on.

All of these achievements arose from Amazon’s humble beginnings in Bezos’ Seattle garage. It has already revolutionized the online shopping experience, and its move into physical stores is only the beginning. To say its future is bright is an understatement.

Photo courtesy of Amazon


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