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What Route Will Amazon Take Without Bezos At The Helm?


Written by

Tom Mortimer


10 MIN

What Route Will Amazon Take Without Bezos At The Helm?

The King is dead, long live the king?

Well, not quite. But it doesn’t feel that far off. Bezos’ departure has come as a huge shock to the tech industry. He’s been omnipresent in any tech-head’s life for what seems like forever.

From seeing his smug face pop up for the first time in 1997 when you could almost tell by his smile that he knew he was destined for glory, to being roasted by Chris Rock at the Oscars just last year, we’ve seen Bezos rise from nothing, to one of the most powerful men in the world in less than 25 years.

Bezos has become, without doubt, a tech industry legend. Love him or loathe him, you can’t fail to put him on a pedestal alongside the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Larry Page who have changed the world in one way or another.

Jeff Bezos has done that too. Not many Kings have.

What does this mean for Amazon?

Stock fluctuations are usually a good indicator and at this stage the answer seems to be: not that much.

Stocks closed at 1.11% up for the day, which is pretty standard for Amazon and a good sign for Amazon they’ve made the right decision in choosing their next main man.

The man in question? CEO of Amazon Web Services (AWS) Andy Jassy.

Jassy, a Harvard grad, has been at Amazon in one form or another since 1997, beginning life in the marketing department before moving to found AWS in 2003 where he became CEO in 2014.

“He’s a win-at-all-costs type of person,” said Zoltan Szabadi, a Google Cloud employee who formerly worked alongside Jassy. “This is just one of the many tactics that he thinks will help his business.”

Those tactics seem to be working too. A subsidiary of inc (the mothership), as of 2017 AWS owned a dominant 33% share of the internet’s cloud services and generated $35billion in revenue in 2019.

Its power, though, is bigger than numbers. The tech boom was built on AWS’ infrastructure. It’s pretty much invisible to the general public, yet if it fell, not only would we norms go into post-AWS shock, but so would governments around the world. NASA, the CIA, Spotify and Netflix amongst so many others are powered by AWS.

There’s no doubting Jassy has done an impressive job, but this is quite the step up, and as Tim Cook found taking over from Steve Jobs — handling someone else’s baby isn’t always easy.

While Bezos doesn’t move from the CEO to his new Executive Chairman role until the third quarter of 2021, he has taken a reduced role in the running of the company over the last few years, so the transition is unlikely to cause much of a hiccup.

Amazon dropped an astounding earnings report too yesterday which showed the company nearly doubled its sales and profits last year, so as Bezos said when announcing he was stepping down, “Amazon couldn’t be better positioned for the future.”

What that future looks like is anyone’s guess at the moment. There are so many arms to Amazon – from Prime to Logistics, from Robotics to Publishing – that whatever the strategy is, Andy Jassy will have a lot to juggle.

Not least dealing with the Federal Trade Commission investigation that came to an end yesterday concluding that, “Amazon baited drivers with promised earnings, and then secretly slashed wages by pocketing tips.” A despicable move when you consider Amazon earned $386 billion in 2020 and Amazon drivers earn close to the minimum wage.

So is that the reason Bezos is moving on? To help Amazon turn over a new leaf after years of bad press which ranges from warehouse worker maltreatment to alleged anti competitive practices?

This doesn’t seem to be stopping the company itself, though. We’ve seen clear indicators that Amazon aren’t holding back on the alleged anti competition as they look to cement themselves as the world’s central fulfilment outlet, with the creation of services that will carry out the fulfilment like Amazon Air and Amazon Prime Air, to the expansion into the likes of groceries and Pharmacy that will do the fulfilling.

This will be Jassy’s biggest test. Toeing the line between good and bad.

Maybe Bezos feels it’s time to get out before his legacy is tarnished by the latter?

What does this mean for Jeff Bezos?

Just in the same way Tom Brady insisted he wasn’t retiring when he left the New England Patriots, Bezos has made it clear he’s got plenty more to give.

In a similar mould to when Bill Gates stepped away from Microsoft, Bezos has stated that his ambition is to do good. Two of the major projects he’s talked about working on are of a philanthropic nature: The Day 1 Fund and the Bezos Earth Fund, which are starting with $2 billion and $10 billion to help homeless families and fight climate change, respectively.

Bezos also seems to be inspired by the man who recently took his place as the world’s richest man too, Elon Musk, as he’ll look to continue forward with his work on Blue Origin to “help make space travel mainstream”.

And it’s also very important not to forget that Bezos owns the Washington Post, one of America’s most popular and powerful dailies. Whether Bezos will venture further into media ala Rupert Murdoch is anyone’s guess. This doesn’t seem like a very Bezos thing to do, but it’s something to stay mindful of.

However, will Bezos really step away from Amazon anyway? Not everyone thinks so. Speaking to Reuters, CFRA analyst Tuna Amobi said, “I don’t think he’s going to be completely hands off.”

While Ken Perkins, President of RetailMetrics LLC also told Reuters similar, “Jeff Bezos has held a firm grip on the company for a long time. I have to believe he will have a say in what is going on and have a big hand in big picture decisions.”

Whether that’s in a reduced capacity role like Gates initially went into at Microsoft or as Reuters put it, “step[ping] down without stepping away”, it’s certainly going to be interesting to see what happens.

If this is a move to help Amazon “turn over a new leaf”, it does make sense that stepping down without stepping away may be the action here.

That was Brady’s tactic too, but at least he actually left the building.

What does this mean for marketers?

It’s very hard to say right now. Jassy has proven adept at building the most profitable part of Amazon, but moving into e-commerce is a different ball game.

However, if that success translates easily, then for us as marketers and business owners, we need to be in a position to piggyback off Amazon’s success and that means making yourself an Amazon Ads expert and getting to grips with their whole ecosystem.

I know there will be some of you out there reading this who believe we should fight Amazon’s dominance, and that’s right we should in whatever way we can. We’ve seen the damage that Amazon can do to small businesses and the way it gobbles up the industry. Yet Amazon does offer legitimate ways to improve your business too. There are so many small businesses out there that wouldn’t exist without Amazon.

Some may see this as Amazon swallowing the economy, but to watch idly while Amazon eats you up is only self sabotage.

Bezos or not, Amazon isn’t changing anytime soon. Antitrust isn’t going to change anything either.

What is going to change is every corner of the e-commerce industry and that’s not an overstatement.

We need to be in a position to benefit from that if we want to survive and thrive.

What’s your opinion? Head over to our Digital Marketing Facebook group to get involved in the conversation.

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