Bezos: Amazon.com still in day one

Amazon.com may be the best-known e-commerce company out there, in the wake of its latest effort to expand beyond books its CEO and founder says it has a long way to go.

Amazon.com may be the best-known e-commerce company out there, in the wake of its latest effort to expand beyond books its CEO and founder says it has a long way to go.

"In terms of not just the development of the company but the development of e-commerce, it's day one," Jeff Bezos told ZDNN Thursday in an interview. "And what I mean by that is we know two percent of what we will know 10 years from now about e-commerce."

Bezos spoke shortly after Amazon.com (Nasdaq:AMZN) launched its new zShops feature, which lets small businesses set up shop on Amazon.com. The new shopping area was announced Wednesday, and launched early Thursday morning. Bezos says it has 500,000 items on it, or four times the size of a normal retail store.

Perhaps more importantly for Amazon.com, zShops is another step away from pure book selling. Of course, Bezos argues that Amazon.com isn't in the business of selling things.

Bezos: 'Universal selection' vision
"We don't consider our business to be selling things to people," he said. Instead, "our business is to try and have universal selection and provide tools so people can find and discover the right products for them. So in a very important way our core business is helping people make purchase decisions."


'We're trying to invent something completely new that really doesn't have an analogue in the physical world'
-- Jeff Bezos

He also says the company doesn't want to be a retailer, and the zShops effort is part of that.

"It's the only way to accomplish our long-term vision of universal selection, having a place where people can come to find and discover anything, and that's anything with a capital A," Bezos said.

Whether that drive for selection will mean acquisitions or partnerships, Bezos wouldn't say.

He did say that its focus on giving customers control of transactions separates Amazon.com from potential rivals such as Wal-mart Stores Inc. (NYSE:WMT).

What about profits?
Of course, many argue that the real difference between Amazon.com and its rivals is that Amazon.com has yet to turn a profit, despite a market capitalization near $27 billion. Bezos thinks the constant focus on profitability is the wrong way to look at things.

"It's not that unusual for companies to invest for a long period of time," he said, citing USA Today or CNN as ventures that didn't make money for years after they were started. "The thing that's unusual is that companies can do that as publicly traded companies."

Bezos declined to make any comments on when he thinks the company might post a profit. But to those who say that its model precludes profitability, he said flatly "they are wrong."

He also says Amazon.com will continue to move in unconventional directions.

"It's tempting to try and figure out sort of an eight-second sound bite, you know, Amazon.com is going to be the something of the Internet, where you fill in the blank," Bezos said. But "One of the metrics of our success will be our ability to continue to defy easy analogy. We're trying to invent something completely new that really doesn't have an analogue in the physical world."

Real world Amazon.com
Those directions don't appear to include building physical stores, not even something to push its brand, a la Nike Inc.'s popular Niketowns.

"I don't think there's anything really wrong with doing that, but it's very difficult to imagine as a priority," Bezos told ZDNN. "There's so much stuff to be done in e-commerce ... so much unexplored territory, we probably have better uses for our time energy and effort."

While he worries about competitors, and he worries about how far the site must go, he says his biggest fear comes from the potential to disappoint customers.

"We should be afraid not of our competitors, but our customers, because those are the folks we have a relationship with, those are the folks who send us money," Bezos said. "There's a lot of sweat, blood and tears to make all of that customer experience be as good as it can be."

Newsletters

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
See All
See All