Amazon founder and boss Jeff Bezos’ annual letter to shareholders never fails to hit the headlines – and this year’s edition was no exception.
Although his revelation that the etail titan now has 100 million Amazon Prime members globally stole many of the column inches, there were plenty more illuminating points in his six-page note that will resonate across the industry.
Retail Week picks out Bezos’ key quotes.
Bezos on the modern consumer:
“One thing I love about customers is that they are divinely discontent. Their expectations are never static – they go up. It’s human nature. We didn’t ascend from our hunter-gatherer days by being satisfied.
“People have a voracious appetite for a better way, and yesterday’s ‘wow’ quickly becomes today’s ‘ordinary’.”
Bezos on staff standards:
“I believe high standards are teachable. In fact, people are pretty good at learning high standards simply through exposure.
“High standards are contagious. Bring a new person onto a high-standards team, and they’ll quickly adapt”
“High standards are contagious. Bring a new person onto a high-standards team, and they’ll quickly adapt. The opposite is also true. If low standards prevail, those too will quickly spread.”
Bezos on learning from colleagues:
“When I started Amazon, I had high standards on inventing, on customer care, and (thankfully) on hiring. But I didn’t have high standards on operational process: how to keep fixed problems fixed, how to eliminate defects at the root, how to inspect processes, and much more.
“I had to learn and develop high standards on all of that (my colleagues were my tutors).”
Bezos on presentations:
“We don’t do PowerPoint (or any other slide-oriented) presentations at Amazon. Instead, we write narratively structured six-page memos. We silently read one at the beginning of each meeting in a kind of ‘study hall’.
“Not surprisingly, the quality of these memos varies widely. Some have the clarity of angels singing. They are brilliant and thoughtful and set up the meeting for high-quality discussion.”
Bezos on the success of Prime:
“In 2017, Amazon shipped more than five billion items with Prime worldwide, and more new members joined Prime than in any previous year – both worldwide and in the US. Members in the US now receive unlimited free two-day shipping on over 100 million different items.
“We expanded Prime to Mexico, Singapore, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and introduced Business Prime Shipping in the US and Germany.”
Bezos on the growth of voice technology:
“Customer embrace of Alexa continues, with Alexa-enabled devices among the best-selling items across all of Amazon. We’re seeing extremely strong adoption by other companies and developers that want to create their own experiences with Alexa.
“There are now more than 30,000 skills for Alexa from outside developers, and customers can control more than 4,000 smart home devices from 1,200 unique brands with Alexa.”
Bezos on Amazon Go:
“Since opening, we’ve been thrilled to hear many customers refer to their shopping experience as ‘magical’. What makes the magic possible is a custom-built combination of computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning, which come together to create Just Walk Out shopping.
“With JWO, customers are able to grab their favourite breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack and grocery essentials more conveniently than ever before.
“Some of our top-selling items are not surprising – caffeinated beverages and water are popular – but our customers also love the Chicken Banh Mi sandwich, chocolate chip cookies, cut fruit, gummy bears, and our Amazon Meal Kits.”
Bezos on investing in jobs:
“Since 2011, we have invested over $150bn worldwide in our fulfilment networks, transportation capabilities and technology infrastructure, including AWS data centres. Amazon has created over 1.7 million direct and indirect jobs around the world.
“In 2017 alone, we directly created more than 130,000 new Amazon jobs, not including acquisitions, bringing our global employee base to over 560,000.”
Bezos on the path ahead:
“We continue to aspire to be Earth’s most customer-centric company, and we recognise this to be no small or easy challenge. We know there is much we can do better, and we find tremendous energy in the many challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”