How Jeff Bezos made his billions and changed the way we shop

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Jeff Bezos

Before the 1990s, the shopping experience was a time consuming, often arduous exercise. You would get into the car, travel to a store, or even several stores, park, and spend time searching for what you needed along aisles of numerous products for sale. Then you would find the item, stand in line to pay for it, and drive home.

After the 1990s and the advent of Amazon.com, you had a much easier option to shop. You would sit down at your computer, or later take up a mobile device, browse through displays and descriptions of items, find what you wanted, and then point and click. A few days later, that item would arrive at your doorstep courtesy of a package delivery service. You had saved yourself a lot of time and bother.

Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com in 1994 after leaving a well-paying job at a New York hedge fund company and traveling across the country to Seattle. He decided that the initial product he would sell in his virtual store would be books, a commodity that could be ordered from a wholesaler as customers bought them online. Eventually. Amazon expanded to sell just about every product imaginable, becoming, in effect, a virtual department store.

Bezos ascribes his success at being an entrepreneur to what he learned spending summers on his grandfather’s ranch in Texas. The ranch was some distance away from repair shops, doctors, and other service providers that people living in cities rely on. A lot of repairs and even veterinary procedures performed on livestock were performed by Bezos’ grandfather, working with materials he had on hand. Bezos finds that he values those qualities in his friends, coworkers, and even his wife.

Bezos also values long-term thinking. Amazon was not profitable until about 2001. His patience has been since rewarded by the company becoming one of the largest on the planet and himself rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

Bezos has also found that failure can be a learning experience. He tried several times to integrate third-party sellers on the Amazon platform before he hit on the idea of presenting their products on the same page as similar items sold by Amazon directly.

Throughout the 21st century, Bezos has continued to expand and refine Amazon. He succeeded, where others failed, in creating the electronic book in the form of the Kindle. Now people can carry around entire libraries on a single device that can fit inside a purse. He founded Amazon Studios and distributes original films and TV shows on the Internet. Bezos is developing a drone delivery service with which certain items can be delivered by air within minutes of being ordered from local distribution centers.

Bezos is even reinventing the traditional brick-and-mortar store. The idea will be that you can go into a store, select items, have them itemized on a smartphone app, and then automatically paid for once you leave the store. There would be no checkout lines, and no cashiers. Restocking could, in theory, be done by robots.

Bezos likes to say that his approach to life consists of fellowship and adventure. On that latter quality, the other business venture he has started, which is financed by sales of Amazon stock, is Blue Origin, a space launch company. Bezos would like to lower the cost of space travel to such an extent that millions of people will work in space in the fullness of time. Amazon, besides changing the way we shop, will help bring that dream to reality.

Mr. Singh is the CEO of AIRR Media with over 15 years of experience specializing in digital marketing and technology. He has helped startups increase their online revenue 10x using a proven framework for marketing businesses on the web.