In the 1990’s, “ecommerce” was just coming into the public eye, and many new entrepreneurs burst onto the scene with online business ideas that were exciting, new, and completely unfamiliar to consumers, as well as very unfamiliar to the entrepreneurs who were starting the companies.
These brave entrepreneurs were entering a brand new market, with hardly any guidelines or idea of what consumers would like and dislike in an online retail company. It was questionable whether or not customers would even buy online in the first place. But Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, had a plan for Amazon that would turn out to be a strategy that many new online entrepreneurs now strive to emulate.
Jeff Bezos built Amazon to not just be one of the many new dot-com businesses that were popping up to make money fast, but he had his eye on another goal: to become a major household name with a strong foundation of consumer trust, and to stand out from all other businesses who were trying to accomplish the same thing.
The Long Game
Many new corporations make the mistake of playing the short game—they make decisions that are going to make the most money in the fastest way possible. While this is seemingly the purpose of starting a major corporation—to make lots and lots of money—wise corporations like Amazon demonstrate the ability to forgo immediate gratification for a much bigger reward later on down the road.
This wisdom is demonstrated by Jeff Bezos’s response to Amazon’s first year of profitability: Amazon made a profit shortly after the dot-com bubble burst, and very few online retailers survived. Rather than reveling in being one of the few champions of a very difficult time in online retail history, Jeff Bezos was concerned with Amazon’s long-term success.
After earning Amazon’s first big profit, Bezos reportedly stated that he hadn’t intended to make a profit so soon—the plan was for Amazon to begin making a profit in another couple of years.
This was one of the first indicators that Jeff Bezos had a plan that was vastly different than that of the majority of other online entrepreneurs, who were looking to get rich quick. Jeff Bezos had is head in the long-game, and that is the way to begin a successful company like Amazon.
Focusing on immediate cash will only damage your likelihood of establishing a permanent, consistently money-earning infrastructure in your business. Think of it this way: in order to land that first big job that pays well, you first have to put in hours and hours of low paying (or no-paying) work as an intern or student.
If you are too eager to start making money right away, without developing the skills you need to bring in large amounts of money, you will have to settle for a consistently low paying job with no real opportunity of advancement. Impatience is the enemy of success.
Amazon quickly stood out from its competitors by being one of the very few survivors of the dot-com crash, but it then continued to stand above its competitors by differentiating itself. This means that Amazon found its niche and appealed to what it recognized as lacking in the current market.
In order to be successful with your business, you essentially need to determine what the problem is in the market that you are entering, and aim to solve that problem. For Amazon, that problem was customer service. The online retail world was just getting on its feet, and many entrepreneurs were interested in cash and cash only. This left a major gap in what customers expect most and appreciate most from a business they buy from often: great customer service.
In the dawn of the internet retail age, customers were still used to going into the neighborhood shop and having a shop assistant help them and guide them towards the best product and the product that best suited their needs. Amazon took that information and that model that already worked extremely well for retailers and customers in brick-and-mortar shops, and applied it to its online retail model.
Jeff Bezos and his marketing team at Amazon realized that customers appreciated excellent customer service and would buy more if they were lead through the online store and helped along the way with suggestions, just like in a real-world store.
When you are building your marketing plan, and even at the very beginning of establishing your new business, one of the most important factors is to fill a niche that isn’t being filled for customers elsewhere.
Think about what your company provides or will provide that no other company out there provides, and then appeal to consumers based on that characteristic of your company. If you are just another one of many companies doing the same thing or extremely similar things, you will likely go unnoticed.
Amazon set up their online store to give the feeling of great customer service by providing easy-to-use categories, suggestions based on what you have viewed and bought previously, and reviews by other customers. Amazon also followed through with great customer service by providing care to its customers after sales.
Many online companies did not (and still do not) offer this type of customer service post-sale in online retail. In order for an online retailer to really take off like Amazon did, they had to build trust from the bottom up, because their customer base was not accustomed to conducting many transactions online.
To do this, Amazon committed to following up with its customers to make them feel valued and comfortable. In this way, Amazon became a company that people now trust intrinsically.
Arguably the most important quality that Jeff Bezos has instilled in Amazon is a consistent “think-outside-the-box” mentality. The way that Amazon developed all of the above qualities, and the way it continues to operate over 80 football-field-sized warehouses and remain open 24/7/365, is by constantly finding new and inventive ways to improve upon its strategies.