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How is the Amazon Business Model Profitable?

See what we can learn from Amazon

14Oct

Asking how Amazon’s business model remains profitable may yield a complicated answer. Many analysts still contend that the company’s business model is not profitable. Conjecture aside, Amazon has long been one of the largest E Commerce corporations on the planet. The company’s services are often favored because they’re able to provide consumers with free shipping and extraordinary discounts on a variety of items. A former employee states that Amazon is making money in all retail operations, but is unprofitable overall due to its investment decisions.

Many of Amazon’s investment ventures are designed to improve sales totals and increase global expansion. Amazon runs a profitable organization, but all the profits are being invested in efforts to make the organization a more powerful global enterprise. This may explain why Amazon’s stock continues to rise, despite reductions in profit on quarterly reports. Amazon may be unprofitable with a few key items, but remains profitable for retail operations overall.

Volume

Amazon is able to gain leverage from its fixed assets by utilizing the Internet. The company gains a profit once the gross profits from total sales exceed the company’s fixed cost base. The high sales numbers are often attributable to the fast shipping system that Amazon uses. Amazon has an efficient and organized workflow. Consumers and companies selling goods through Amazon costs very little money for the organization. According to Business Insider, an employee claims that the company realizes a profit on nearly every transaction.

Diversity

Amazon’s revenue stream is classified into three different divisions, Media, Electronic & General Merchandise and Other. Amazon Web Services, better known as AWS, constitutes most of the revenue generated from the company’s Other division. A majority of Amazon’s revenue is generated by the Electronic and General Merchandise division, like a data dashboard. This is also the fastest growing revenue stream for the company. As of the end of Sept. 2014, the company generated more than $85 billion in revenue.

Despite overall net income remaining nonexistent for over 20 years, Amazon’s revenue has increased at an exponential rate since 1995. The Media division generates the second-most amount of revenue for the corporation. Media has accounted for a smaller and smaller proportion of Amazon’s revenue every quarter over the past 10 years. Although the total amount of revenue generated from the 'Other' division is the smallest, the increase in revenue has been exponential.

Bundled Services

The three divisions are segmented into individual businesses, based on territory and product, which set their own prices. Even with e-books, Amazon realizes sales prices that are close to those realized by physical retailers, on average. Amazon also has several startups that generate a profit, sell at cost or result in a loss. A part of Amazon’s success is attributable to the corporation’s ability to provide a bundle of services to the consumer. The media service, Prime, comes with a high fixed cost, but the membership serves as a gateway in introducing consumers to purchasing other types of goods from Amazon as well.

Analysts found that products like Prime compel consumers to make more online and offline purchases from Amazon in the future. Third party sales constitutes for 40 percent of Amazon’s unit sales and the vendor fees collected account for 20 percent of total revenue. Amazon currently has more than two million third party seller accounts. The actual revenue that Amazon collects may actually be higher than what it reportedly generates since gross value is not disclosed.

Growth Oriented

Amazon’s business model consistently manages these individual business segments and investment opportunities to produce approximately zero net income each quarter. The business model prioritizes growth over accumulating net income. The company’s operating cash flow remains relatively consistent, while its free cash flow has declined due to increases in capital expenditures.

The increase in capex has been focused on expanding Amazon’s physical infrastructure, such as acquiring warehouses and AWS investments. Any potential net profits are allocated towards investments into the company’s long-term interests. Amazon’s revenue currently accounts for less than one percent of U.S. retail market. The question for investors is whether the company will ever evolve and convert its operations to capitalize on its strength growth model. 

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