Amazon’s explosive growth and e-commerce domination, which has contributed to its expansive transportation and logistics footprint around the globe, is the subject of a second book by Brad Stone.
Stone, the author of the best-selling book The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, was the keynote speaker on May 7 at Transparency19, a three-day freight technology event at the Georgia International Conference Center in Atlanta.
Stone’s first book documented how Bezos was able to grow his company from a startup in his garage to a global company with more than $234 billion in revenue.
As Amazon’s shipping costs continue to soar, the company is continuing to experiment and expand its footprint into a variety of transportation modes like air cargo, shipping, trucks and last-mile delivery, which may become a major disruption in the transportation industry, Stone said.
“Amazon wants to be everywhere,” he said. “[It] wants to have vans running in your neighborhood and wants to have airplanes and trucks moving between its fulfillment centers and it wants to have ships going from its sellers and manufacturers in China to the U.S. and Europe.”
Amazon now has more than 175 fulfillment centers and has approximately 600,000 employees worldwide.
“Amazon is experimenting and on the road to finding something big that will help it with its long-standing goal of controlling the last-mile [deliveries],” he said.
In his book, Stone, the senior editor for technology for Bloomberg News, compiled more than 300 interviews with current and former Amazon employees to document the company’s explosive growth from a small group working in Bezos’ garage outside of Seattle to “becoming a company that’s basically worrying almost everybody in business” since it was founded in 1994.
“Amazon had gone from book-selling to general retail to enterprise computing – it had gotten into digital book selling and digital book publishing, and I thought here’s a company, a very secretive remote company up in Seattle, that hadn’t gotten the proper amount of attention,” Stone said.
Bezos left his lucrative hedge-fund career on Wall Street to start Amazon in Bellevue, Washington. What started as a company shipping books through the local post office, quickly turned into the “everything store,” Stone said.
The period between 2006 and 2008 was the “most fruitful time in Amazon’s history,” Stone commented.
“There was a Cambrian explosion of new business ideas and the way they got there is basically turning pieces of the Amazon empire into platforms,” he said.
However, the company’s promises of delivering products quickly to its customers and its rapid growth have lead to internal chaos, Stone said.
“Amazon’s biggest enemy has never Walmart or eBay,” he said. “It’s always been solving for the chaos in its own operations – trying to figure out how to keep up with the growth and fulfill the promises it is making to its customers.”
Could logistics be next for the e-commerce giant?
“The bottom line is yes, it’s coming,” Stone said.
Amazon has rolled out its “Shipping with Amazon” services aimed at taking on UPS and FedEx as well as its Amazon Flex program that hires drivers to deliver its packages.
“Amazon’s shipping costs are growing by leaps and bounds so the first obligation will be to service its own customers,” he said.