From Bookstore to Superstore: The Evolution of Amazon

July 16, 2015

Marketplaces Laura Lane By Laura Lane

One man with a light bulb idea and persistent drive makes savvy first business moves in a home garage. Around 1994, Jeff Bezos began working on a business plan (yes, in his garage) for what would eventually become the largest internet retailer in the US — Amazon.com. And exactly 20 years ago today, on 16 July 1995, the company made its official debut.

The website originally started as an online bookstore, but look at it now. What doesn’t Amazon do? Amazon has matured into a provider of electronic device production, cloud computing software and exclusive delivery services — and these elements do not even describe  the tip of Amazon’s iceberg.

In celebration of Amazon’s 20th birthday, we felt it only appropriate to acknowledge the significant achievements and transformations Bezos and his team have accomplished over the past 20 years. Below we’ve listed (some of) Amazon’s most memorable moments for each year of its existence.

Year-by-Year Evolution

  • 1994: Cadabra.com (yes, as in “abracadabra”) is built by Jeff Bezos in his garage, located in  Washington.
  • 1995: “Cadabra” quickly turns into “Amazon” after Bezos’ lawyer misheard the word as “cadaver.” Bezos then decides to go with a more authoritative name — after the largest river basin in the world — to suggest the business’ scale (its launch tagline was “Earth’s biggest bookstore”).
  • 1996: Amazon bumps its employee count to eleven and moves out of the garage into a small warehouse — its second official headquarters.
  • 1997: Amazon issues its initial public offering (IPO) of stock at $18 per share.
  • 1998: Amazon’s appetite grows, resulting in its takeover of multiple companies — including Drugstore.com, Pets.com and Overstock.com.
  • 1999: Amazon’s online shopping platform secures the national a spotlight when Time magazine names Bezos its Person of the Year.
  • 2000: Amazon updates its logo, introducing the curved arrow pointing from A to Z that the world recognizes today.

Amazon logos

The transformation of Amazon’s logo.
  • 2001: Amazon turns its first profit — $5 million (i.e., 1¢ per share), on revenues of more than $1 billion.
  • 2002: Amazon Web Services (AWS), a platform for developers to include features of Amazon.com into their own sites, launches.
  • 2003: Amazon launches Search Inside the Book — a feature allowing customers to hunt for keywords in the full text of books listed on Amazon.com.
  • 2004: Amazon’s consumer electronic sales surpass book sales for the first time.
  • 2005: Amazon Prime, the company’s now overwhelmingly popular membership programme, is born.
  • 2006: Amazon launches Amazon Simple Storage, an online storage service.
  • 2007:
    • Amazon Kindle, the famous e-reader, debuts.
    • Amazon Music, Amazon’s online music store, launches.
    • AmazonFresh, a home grocery delivery service, begins operating in Seattle suburbs.
  • 2008: Amazon releases a paid search feature called Product Ads to allow advertisers to drive Amazon traffic back to their own websites.
  • 2009: AmazonBasics, a private-label product line primarily consisting of consumer electronics accessories, launches.
  • 2010: Sales for Kindle eBooks outnumber sales of physical books for the first time.
  • 2011:
    • Amazon Local, a daily deal aggregator service, launches.
    • Amazon enters the tablet computer market with its introduction of the Kindle Fire.
    • Amazon releases its Subscribe & Save programme which offers a discounted price on monthly deliveries of an item.
  • 2012:
    • AmazonSupply (now known as Amazon Business), launches as an online marketplace for industrial and scientific goods.
    • Amazon eclipses Google as the number one destination to originate a product search.
  • 2013: Amazon Art launches as an online marketplace for original and limited edition fine art from select galleries.
  • 2014:
    • Amazon enters the smartphone market with the release of the Fire Phone.
    • One-hour delivery is made available to Prime members in Manhattan, New York.
  • 2015:
    • Amazon’s Prime Instant Video series Transparent earns two Golden Globe Awards — and is the first series from a streaming service to win a Golden Globe for best series.
    • Amazon’s Dash Button debuts in the US.
    • Amazon Prime Now is rolled out, enabling two-hour delivery to Londoners in zones 1 and 2.
    • Amazon launches its own shopping day — Prime Day — in celebration of its 20th birthday.

Notice how Amazon’s undertakings gradually increase as time progresses? And the company is only 20 years young. Here at ChannelAdvisor we get excited each time Amazon debuts a new innovation and we’re eager to see what Amazon does next.

Happy Birthday, Amazon!


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