By Ankit Shah Amazon is one of the first ventures that set out to tap the potential of web for retail business. It’s hard to believe that a business that started out of founder Jeff Bezos’ garage in 1994 has revenues of over $32 billion today. What is even harder to believe is that the company didn’t make any profit for first 5 years of its conception. Looking back, many leading business analysts see Amazon’s business plan as one of the soundest yet simple business plans, or virtuous cycle as it is more popularly known, of that era.
Figure 1: Amazon’s Business Plan 
A sharp customer focus was the key take away of the business plan. While the general market trend during the dot com boom was of aggressively fending off competition, Amazon remained faithful towards the simplest principle of the industry, “It’s a Customer’s Market”. Driven by his will to increase customer satisfaction, Bezos made hefty investments in research and technology which was also new to the market.
Consistent upgrades to the web portal made it increasingly easy to use and opened up the market by introducing its customers to products that were not available at a regular retail store. Features like personal recommendations, search inside a book, wish lists were highly customer centric and quickly caught the attention of the e-shoppers. The high variety offered by Amazon enticed even more customers after the features like rating a product, reviews and discussions were added. Figure 2 shows the current customer satisfaction standing of Amazon and its competitors.
Figure 2: American Customer Satisfaction Index (Internet Retailers). Feb 2011. 
Recognizing the importance of the long tail market has also played a part in Amazon’s increasing customer satisfaction scores. Being an online retailer, Amazon has the flexibility to offer obscure products to its customers. The ease of obtaining products and items, which are rarely available at regular stores, is a key USP of Amazon. It is also a major profit maker for Amazon.
Figure 3: The Long Tail Phenomenon 
Consistent high scores on the customer satisfaction index and the sound business strategy reaped its first profit in 2001, by which time Amazon had become a household name. Customer satisfaction is identified as a leading contributor to a company’s profits by many leading industry experts.
Figure 4: Contribution of various Business Performance Factors to Shareholder Value 
‘Cost of attracting a new customer is almost 4 times the cost of retaining an old one’ is a statistic that is widely accepted in the industry. This translates to huge savings in
Figure 5: Reason for customers to stop dealing with vendors. 
operational costs as Amazon stands at over 81 million registered users today. As Amazon concentrated on building deeper customer relationships, it also came up with innovative ways to leverage these relationships to increase sales. ‘Bill me later’ was introduced to increase the buying power of the existing customers. It allowed customers to buy a product instantly but be billed at a later date. Amazon Marketplace is a service that allows users to buy and sell used items. It is also a great example of how Amazon has leveraged its customer relationship to create new opportunities as the success of such a venture depends greatly on the customer relationships. The Brand Value of Amazon has also seen an upward movement similar to the customer satisfaction index. This has also helped Amazon attract more customers and increase its market presence. 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 36
Amazon 65 62 58 43 Brand Index Figure 6: Amazon’s Increasing Brand Value 
The increasing brand value and the saturating market in United States have urged Amazon to spread into international markets. Amazon began its European expansion by acquiring Bookpages.co.uk in 1997. The international market growth of Amazon has been steadily...