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Amazon, King of Disruptors
When it comes to disruptive technology, there’s one company that reigns supreme. Amazon (AMZN $). Amazon and its pioneering founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, are responsible for disrupting more industries than I can count, and they’re still going strong. In this article, I’m going to explain what makes Amazon such a powerful machine, and the many industries it disrupts.
When was the last time you went into Barnes & Noble ($BKS)? Or any other bookstore for that matter? How about the last time you visited Amazon’s website? I’m willing to bet that almost everyone reading this has been on Amazon for the past few days, and I’m equally willing to bet that almost no one has been in a physical bookstore in quite some time. The bookstore industry, epitomized by former giant Barnes & Noble, was the first victim of Amazon’s disruptive tendencies. Amazon’s roots go back to 1994 when the company founded an online bookstore. By designing as an online bookstore, Amazon was able to offer a much wider selection than any physical bookstore, along with the ability to offer the same selection at a lower cost to the consumer. As the free market usually behaves, consumers chose the cheaper option when offered the same product or service. By 2007, Amazon surpassed Barnes & Noble in book sales revenue, the same year they released the first version of the Kindle e-book reader. By 2010, digital book sales exceeded physical book sales through Amazon. Amazon also runs the company and website Audible, one of the biggest players in the audiobook game. In 2011, Borders Group, which was just a few years before the second largest bookstore chain in the United States filed for bankruptcy, and ceased to exist a few months later. At the time of writing, Barnes & Noble has a market capitalization of approximately $454 million. Amazon has a market value of about 832 billion dollars. According to market valuation, Amazon is worth almost 2000 times more than Barnes & Noble. Amazon’s entry into the bookstore industry and its replacement of previously established companies is the first of many industries that the Amazon bull has disrupted.
There is no end in sight
After profits from direct retail sales and fees charged to third-party vendors on the Amazon site, Amazon earns the largest percentage of its revenue from the Amazon Web Services (AWS) division. AWS has a history going back to 2006. During 2006, Amazon successively launched Simple Storage Service (S3), a file storage service as it is called. Simple Queue Service (SQS), a service designed to automate message queues. And to end the year, they launched Elastic Cloud Computer (EC2), a service that allowed users to pay for server time to run programs and simulations. Today there are about 100 different services offered under the Amazon Web Services umbrella that can serve almost any digital need. Today, nearly half of all digital cloud computing is powered by Amazon. Similar to what happened to the bookstore industry, Amazon took over. By 2020, cloud computing is expected to be more than a $400 billion industry. And Amazon is set to dominate this market for the foreseeable future.
Claim to fame
The retail and grocery industry is a perfect example of an industry that has been forever changed by Amazon, and what they are best known for. To begin with, however, Walmart ($WMT) only has three times the annual revenue of Amazon, so it’s not like Bezos and Co. have come to dominate the retail industry, but they’ve certainly made a splash. You could say they disrupted the industry. Although they were founded in 1994, for the first four years they were just an online bookstore, but in 1998, the company expanded its catalog and began selling more than just books. Since then, the company’s online sales have grown exponentially year over year, and they’ve even been accused of putting many traditional retailers out of business. Amazon earns about 85% of its revenue from its retail business, so that’s obviously the biggest part of Amazon. By pioneering online retail Amazon has managed to establish itself as one of the biggest retail players despite being entirely online, partly from convenience and lower prices. Recently, in 2017, Whole Foods, a luxury grocer, was acquired by Amazon to further its market share in the retail and grocery scene. Through their online retail arm and their physical grocery arm, Amazon is able to take a significant market share and own the dealership on the ground. Oh, and just to put Amazon’s scale into perspective, more than two-thirds of all households have an Amazon Prime subscription.
But what else?
Above I talked about what Amazon’s largest divisions are, and what they are best known for. But here I am going to talk about the lesser known parts. Amazon operates their Amazon Video service and is available to all Prime customers. Acting as competition to TV and traditional media and popular among cord-cutters, the service competes with other streaming services like Netflix ($NFLX) and Hulu (soon to be owned by Disney, ($DIS)) and offers thousands of movies and TV shows. There’s Amazon Drive, which offers unlimited file storage for just $59.99 a year. Recently, they also acquired the streaming site twitch, the largest video game streaming site there giving Amazon market share in the streaming and e-sports industries. One of the first subsidiaries is A9, a highly advanced search engine and marketing company that works with machine learning. Amazon is also chasing self-driving car companies like Tesla ($TSLA) and Google’s ($GOOG, $GOOGL) Waymo. Admittedly, Tesla is not as progressive as many believe, nor is it a good investment. Back on track, they also have Amazon Music, Amazon Tickets, Amazon Home Services, Amazon Inspire, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb), Amazon Go, Fire TV, Goodreads, Zappos and countless others. Go ahead and look for Amazon subsidiaries or services offered by Amazon that I haven’t talked about, you can probably find at least a few dozen more. A few days ago Amazon even announced that they are acquiring an online pharmacy in order to offer an online pharmacy and drug delivery service that will disrupt traditional pharmacies.
Currently, Amazon is the second most valuable company in the world by market capitalization. The only company that surpasses them is the technology giant Apple ($APPL). Based on Amazon’s tremendous growth potential, and lack of parallel competition, I believe their value will continue to skyrocket. They are in the unique position of disrupting almost every industry imaginable, and succeeding at the same time. Amazon is an outstanding company that will continue to expand indefinitely, and I would recommend anyone to invest in the company, even though some people believe they are overvalued.
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