Amazon Strategy Teardown

Jeff Bezos:

I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. … [I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,’ [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’ Impossible. And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.”

CB Insights has a massive, 24-page review of Amazon's strategy. But I wanted to highlight this quote from Bezos because it so clearly outlines Amazon's priorities in all things they do. It's hard to imagine Amazon attempting to be the high-value, high-cost leader in a business vertical. Instead, they'll always strive to be the high-value, low-cost leader. And once successful, Amazon becomes almost impossible to compete against.

You can see this thinking behind Amazon's AI as a Service offering. Here's Jeff Bezos again:

Machine learning drives our algorithms for demand forecasting, product search ranking, product and deals recommendations, merchandising placements, fraud detection, translations, and much more. Though less visible, much of the impact of machine learning will be of this type – quietly but meaningfully improving core operations. Inside AWS, we’re excited to lower the costs and barriers to machine learning and AI so organizations of all sizes can take advantage of these advanced techniques.

The same concepts and examples are reiterated: lower costs, improve the offering, and make the service available broadly to businesses of all sizes. No customer would ask for higher costs, or a worse offering, or to make it only available to certain types of businesses. And while it might seem an obvious strategy in retrospect, the result is a competitive barrier that few other companies can surmount.