From Bookstore to Superstore: The Evolution of Amazon.com

Can you believe that a little more than two decades ago, Amazon was still one man, a light bulb idea and a home garage?

Circa 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. In 1995, the company made its official debut.

Since then, a lot has changed.

The marketplace that originally started as an online bookstore now produces consumer electronics, cloud computing services and the world’s most competitive delivery services — and these elements don’t even reach beyond the tip of Amazon’s iceberg.

Now well past its 20th birthday, Amazon is going stronger than ever. Here’s a look at (some of) the marketplace’s most memorable moments for first- and third-party sellers:

The Year-by-Year Evolution of Amazon

1994:

Cadabra.com (yes, as in “abracadabra”) is built by Jeff Bezos in his garage, located in Bellevue, Washington.

1995:

“Cadabra” is quickly dumped in favor of  “Amazon” after Bezos’ lawyer reveals he misheard the original moniker as “cadaver.” Bezos decides to go with a more authoritative name — referencing 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 11 and moves out of the garage and 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 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. Meanwhile, the marketplace begins offering free shipping on orders over $100 and opens to third-party sellers.

The transformation of Amazon’s logo.

2001:

Amazon turns its first profit — $5 million (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 program, is born.

2006:

Amazon launches Amazon Simple Storage, an online storage service.

2007:

Several new services make their debut: AmazonFresh, a home grocery delivery service; Amazon Music, Amazon’s online music store; and Amazon Kindle, the now-famous e-reader.

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:

For the first time, sales of Kindle eBooks outnumber sales of printed books.

2011:

This is the year Amazon launches the Subscribe & Save program to offer discounts on items delivered monthly. It’s also when the Kindle Fire comes on the e-commerce scene.

2012:

Amazon eclipses Google as the place more people start when searching for products. Meanwhile, AmazonSupply (now known as Amazon Business), launches as an online marketplace for industrial and scientific goods.

2013:

Amazon Art launches as an online marketplace for original and limited-edition fine art from select galleries.

2014:

Prime Pantry, a delivery service for dry goods and non-perishable groceries for Prime members, gets its start. Prime members in Manhattan are given access to one-hour delivery.

2015:

Amazon turns 20! In celebration of the milestone, the company rolls out the Dash Button and launches Prime Day. On a quieter note, Amazon also starts to roll out Seller-Fulfilled Prime to increase the number of items eligible for Prime two-day shipping.

2016:

Amazon’s private label line expands to the consumer packaged goods (CPG) and fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) categories.

2017:

Amazon Prime Day sets a new record, with sales growing by more than 60% compared with 2016. The marketplace makes even more headlines when it announces the acquisition of Whole Foods. Additionally, features including Amazon Stores and coupons are introduced to help third-party sellers connect with more customers.

2018:

Continued rapid-fire growth leads Amazon to buy land for its growing fleet of cargo jets.

And the expansion continues. Amazon has fast become one of the most critical components of successful online selling — one that requires a robust strategy to ensure you’re taking full advantage of the marketplace giant’s many options for both 1P and 3P sellers.

Did you know? ChannelAdvisor works closely with Amazon to help sellers make the most of selling on this platform. Our deep integrations can help you optimize your product listings, win more of the Buy Box, maximize Prime Day and more. Subscribe to our newsletter, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated as new webinars and guides are ready.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July of 2015 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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