Amazon.com is obsessed with a fervor to serve consumer and shareholder alike. Since its inception over fifteen years ago, Amazon.com has steadily grown from a burgeoning “dot-com” corporation into a multinational monster, a king in the domain of internet retail. It targets two goals: the satisfaction of a customer and efficient corporate growth. Its marketing strategies are near-legendary, and budding business should take a page – or several chapters – from Amazon.com’s proven marketing manual.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder and CEO, dreamed about books. In 1994, he created Amazon.com, Inc., which he labeled as “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore.” The ecommerce company went online in 1995 and soon expanded into other media, including DVDs, VHS, CDs, MP3s, and eventually a wide range of other products, including toys, electronics, furniture and apparel. As such, the tagline soon changed to “Earth’s Largest Selection.” But books were only the beginning of Bezo’s up-and-coming enterprise.
Amazon.com went public in 1997. In the first shareholder letter, Bezos penned the fundamental foundation for Amazon.com’s success: “Start with customers, and work backwards … Listen to customers, but don’t just listen to customers – also invent on their behalf … Obsess over customers.” This policy was backed by a startling business philosophy – Bezos planned on operating at a loss for 4-5 years. It was not until 2001 that Amazon.com posted a net profit at a minuscule one-cent per share. Yet, despite its bizarre business strategy, Amazon.com claimed over 1.4 million customers after only two years of being online.
Now, 45 million satisfied customers shop at Amazon.com for everything from books (most popular) to fashion apparel to fine jewelry to Christmas toys. It has one of the most recognized brand names in the world and garners an estimated 50% of its sales from overseas consumers. Surviving the dot-com bust of the late 1990s and early 2000s, Amazon weathered the e-storms and now thrives in the retail marketplace, challenging vending giants like Wal-Mart and Target. Focused on technological innovation and centered on customer fulfillment, Amazon.com proceeds into the next decade with a profit firmly in one hand, and the capacity to blow it out of the water in the other hand.
Amazon.com’s Business Philosophy
Despite its massive growth, Amazon.com remains unremittingly focused on the consumer. Out of 452 company goals in 2009, 360 directly affected customer experience. Amazon.com’s self-proclaimed mission statement is: “We seek to be Earth’s most customer-centric company for three primary customer sets: consumer customers, seller customers and developer customers.” In a special for the Miami Herald, journalist Jack Hardy declares: “Customer obsession; innovation; bias for action; ownership; high hiring bar and frugality. These six core values focus Amazon.com’s operational strategies.” It is committed to long-term growth based on consumer satisfaction.
Myriads of Marketing Strategies
Amazon.com bases its marketing stratagem on six pillars.
- It freely proffers products and services.
- It uses a customer-friendly interface.
- It scales easily from small to large.
- It exploits its affiliate’s products and resources.
- It uses existing communication systems.
- It utilizes universal behaviors and mentalities.
Much of its marketing is subliminal or indirect – it does not run $1 million dollar ads during Super Bowls nor post flyers in mall marketplaces. Amazon.com relies on wily online ploys, strong partner relations and a constant declaration of quality to market itself to the masses.
Pay Per Click Advertising
Independent Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising has been the black sheep of Amazon.com’s marketing campaign. Their first PPC campaign attempt, spawned by their subsidiary company A9, was the mediocre Clickriver, a middling PPC program that kept its head above water but certainly swam no great channels. ProductAds replaced Clickriver in August, 2008. It allows any web merchant to purchase PPC ads on Amazon.com’s website, leading some pundits to sardonically comment about Amazon.com’s possible pursuit of Google’s web browsing crown.
Despite its potential interest in Google’s regime, Amazon.com continues to purchase PPC advertisements on Google to direct browsing customers to their websites. It buys space on the left side of Google’s search listing results, and pays a fee for each visitor to Amazon.com who clicks on their sponsored link. This is typical of Amazon.com’s marketing strategy. No big banners, loud colors, or pristine men casually conversing about Amazon.com on America’s tube – just a demure advertisement on a web page which, incidentally, may wordlessly lead thousands to Amazon.com