In 20 years, the company that started out selling books online has quickly and efficiently grown into one of the biggest online forces in the world. Originally named Cadabra, Amazon now sells a stunningly broad range of merchandise and has morphed into a retail titan.
In 1996, Amazon launched an affiliate program, expanding its reach and garnering new attention from consumers and search engines. The following year, it opened its first remote distribution center, adding one-click ordering that streamlined the checkout process and minimized the common e-commerce problem of abandoned orders.
In 1998, Amazon expanded beyond books, adding music and DVDs/videos. It acquired the Internet Movie Database ("IMDB") that provided information on popular titles. The following year, the company began selling home-improvement products, software, gift items, and video games.
Amazon began offering online previews of books in the year 2000. Two years later, Amazon’s infrastructure investment entered cloud computing by launching Amazon Web Services. Amazon began selling apparel, accessories, and office products. By 2003, the growing retailer had added health and personal care items, sporting goods, and gourmet food. Amazon also launched an electronics store and began a research and development subsidiary that helped the company with its complex legal strategies.
From 2004 to 2008, Amazon began peddling beauty items and jewelry, wedding products, toys and baby gear, and ATVs and motorcycles. The company also launched the Amazon Prime Program and the Kindle e-reader and acquired Audible.com, Fabric.com and AbeBooks.
Amazon Studios came onto the scene in 2010, developing original TV shows, comics, and movies. The Kindle Fire tablet was introduced in 2011. In the following years, the company saw the acquisition of Avalon Books and the Washington Post, the introduction of the Fire TV device, and the development of Amazon Art logic services. Amazon also began producing movies.
Amazon’s rapid expansion into so many different arenas proved costly. While sales grew to more than $22 billion by the beginning of 2015, Amazon reported losing a staggering $57 million in the preceding quarter.
Amazon’s evolution is full of surprises and challenges, as well as some disappointments, but few would argue with Amazon President Jeff Bezos’ courage in blazing a new trail and innovating in many new directions.