The Secret of Amazon’s Success May Not Be What You Think

Soon Yu

Millions of words have been written on the success of Amazon. It’s an extraordinary company that’s cornered the mass market and brought us innovation after innovation. People usually point to the secret of its success as being its recommendation engine or mobile applications or reseller program. These have all played a part in the company’s meteoric rise. But we think Amazon’s real genius is far more fundamental than any of these things. It’s 1-Click.

Before Amazon made billions, they made buttons

1-Click is so much more than a yellow button. It’s the first part of Amazon’s strategy to shorten the distance from “I want it” to “I have it.” Shopping on the internet traditionally involved a virtual basket, a lengthy checkout process, and some confusing checkboxes that could potentially be adding you to a spammer’s address book. Amazon’s idea was to bypass all of that and improve the experience for its customers.

The shortest journey to purchase

1-Click became the very soul of Amazon. The company recognized its power and innovated on the idea to extend it to every part of the Amazon universe. It’s how you buy books on a Kindle. It’s how you order with their mobile app. It’s how you rent movies on Amazon TV. Amazon even created real buttons you can stick around your home to order products with one physical click. Same-day deliveries and physical “grab and go and pay later” stores naturally followed. And with the company’s purchase of Whole Foods, you can now get your organic muesli without even having to leave your yurt. The next development came with the increasingly popular Amazon Echo. By allowing people to order products with a simple voice command, it’s given Amazon a no-click service. Which is obviously one better than 1-Click!

Hope for the impatient

Amazon is now the world’s biggest retailer. Part of its success is due to the 1-Click innovation and how the company has extended it to everything it does. That’s helping it to own the larger benefit of “no patience required.” Amazon’s goal is to innovate and own the benefit of “no patience required,” - even to the point of cannibalizing their existing business models (just imagine how much the Kindle has made a dent on physical book sales).

Don’t be surprised if one day, with the integration of predictive analytics and IoT, items show up before we even know we need them. In the long run we may just forget that Amazon was once a website. It will just be integrated into our lives

Checkout the steps to success

Our research revealed there are three steps that lead to elevation within your market: Noticing Power, Staying Power and Scaling Power.

Noticing Power is what differentiates you in a way that’s relevant to your audience. Amazon’s Noticing Power was their 1-Click service. It was a powerful and distinctive differentiator for them on the online retail market. When every other site had interminable checkout procedures, their bright yellow 1-Click button was a shining beacon in a world of grey text boxes.

Staying Power is how you maintain and grow the connection with your audience over time. Amazon’s Staying Power came from protecting their 1-Click idea so that the other retailers couldn’t just copy it. And making it consistent and noticeable on their webpages. As much as their model is based on A/B testing and experimentation, they knew that messing with it too much would weaken their advantage and potentially impact their relevance.

Finally, their Scaling Power came from expanding the concept of 1-Click across different devices and channels. By understanding the reason behind 1-Click – instant gratification – they were able to innovate on it with dash buttons, drones and Alexa. You need to know your focus if you want to grow strategically. These developments–and the PR that accompanies them–helped to give universal recognition to the service.

These are principles that every company can benefit from. The wisest thing you could do is buy into them right now. No click required.

Check out this video to learn more

This is part of an ongoing Youtube series, Tales From The Book, which are excerpts from our book Iconic Advantage.  It explains how to grow your brand to remain timelessly relevant. To hear the authors discuss this section of the series, click on the video link here. If you have any questions or comments we’d love to hear from you.

Soon Yu is an international speaker and best-selling author on innovation and design who has been featured in such publications as the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. His book, Iconic Advantage®, challenges businesses to refocus their innovation priorities on building greater iconicity and offers deep insights on establishing timeless distinction and relevance. He most recently served as the Global VP of Innovation and Officer at VF Corporation, parent organization to over 30 global apparel companies, including The North Face, Vans, Timberland, Nautica and Wrangler. He also teaches at Parsons School of Design and guest lectures at Stanford University.

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