As we look forward, we believe that the overall e-commerce opportunity is enormous, and 1999 will be an important year. Although Amazon.com has established a strong leadership position, it is certain that competition will even further accelerate. We plan to invest aggressively to build the foundation for a multi-billion-dollar revenue company serving tens of millions of customers with operational excellence and high efficiency. Although this level of forward investment is costly and carries many inherent risks, we believe it will provide the best end-to-end experience for customers, and actually offer the least risky long-term value creation approach for investors.
The elements of our 1999 plan may not surprise you:
Distribution capacity − We intend to build out a significant distribution infrastructure to ensure that we can support all the sales our customers demand, with speedy access to a deep product inventory.
Systems capacity − We’ll be expanding our systems capacity to support similar growth levels. The systems group has a significant task: expand to meet near term growth, restructure systems for multi-billion dollar scale and tens of millions of customers, build out features and systems for new initiatives and new innovations, and increase operational excellence and efficiency. All while keeping a billion dollar, 8 million customer store up and available on a 24x7 basis.
Brand promise − Amazon.com is still a small and young company relative to the major offline retailers, and we must ensure that we build wide, strong customer relationships during this critical period.
Expanded product and service offerings − In 1999, we will continue to enhance the scope of our current product and service offerings, as well as add new initiatives. Amazon.com Auctions is our most recent addition. If any of you have not tried this new service, I encourage you to run – not walk – to www.amazon.com and click on the Auctions tab. As an Amazon.com customer, you are pre-registered to both bid and sell. As a seller, you have access to Amazon.com’s 8 million experienced online shoppers.
Bench strength and processes − We’ve complicated our business dramatically with new products, services, geographies, acquisitions and additions to our business model. We intend to invest in teams, processes, communication and people development practices. Scaling in this way is among the most challenging and difficult elements of our plan.
Amazon.com has made a number of strides forward in the past year, but there is still an enormous amount to learn and to do. We remain optimistic, but we also know we must remain vigilant and maintain a sense of urgency. We face many challenges and hurdles. Among them, aggressive, capable and well-funded competition; the growth challenges and execution risk associated with our own expansion; and the need for large continuing investments to meet an expanding market opportunity.
The most important thing I could say in this letter was said in last years’ letter, which detailed our long-term investment approach. Because we have so many new shareholders (this year we’re printing more than 200,000 of these letters – last year we printed about 13,000), we’ve appended last year’s letter immediately after this year’s. I invite you to please read the section entitled It’s All About the Long Term. You might want to read it twice to make sure we’re the kind of company you want to be invested in. As it says there, we don’t claim it’s the right philosophy, we just claim it’s ours!
All the best and sincere thanks once again to our customers and shareholders and all the folks here who are working passionately every day to build an important and lasting company.
Jeffrey P. Bezos
Founder and Chief Executive Officer