6 Life Lessons from Amazon’s Q4 2020 Earnings Call

1. Everyone cares too much about what others think of us.

 Amazon continued their focus on corporate image and positioning themselves as a sales enabler vs. a retailer. Amazon kicked off the call thanking their 1.3M employees and immediately focused on image-building by discussing the additions to the workforce (500K people in 2020), the 700 COVID-19 tests they’re conducting per hour, partnership with the government to drive more vaccinations for essential workers, and most importantly, the growth of third party platform, which enables many small businesses to thrive.

 2. We should share our gifts with the world.

 AMZL, Amazon’s logistics arm, may be the next platform they license out. AMZL is now handling over half of Amazon’s packages, and roughly half of the annual warehouse capacity increase was for AMZL. This type of scale makes them ripe to offer logistics as a service to brands and retailers alike.

3. Even celebrities have bad hair days.

 AWS, Amazon’s golden child, might have an upper bound. Even with increased need for cloud computing due to COVID-19, AWS experienced a growth deceleration since the pandemic (28-29% vs. 32.78% pre-pandemic). Amazon defended this slower growth by citing that they did the AWS Re-Invent conference online (vs in person) and for free (vs paid) this year and cited “many new features” coming soon. (The conference must typically be a huge sales driver, and apparently it didn’t translate well to online.)

 4. It pays to be mysterious (literally).

They applied mysterious algorithm changes to an already mysterious advertising platform that experienced – if this is possible – the biggest growth quarter of the year. While not a focus on the call, Brian Osalvsky mentioned changes to the relevance algorithms for advertising that make ads “more productive” for both advertisers and customers.

 5.  Money doesn’t grow on trees

…unless you’re Amazon. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly been expensive for them (11.5B in total headwind costs in 2020), but they still managed to have a huge cash flow quarter.

 6. We all yearn for better days. 

Amazon still isn’t out of the weeds operationally, and maybe otherwise. Brian Osalvsky (kinda sadly actually) stated their desire to focus on One Day Prime and “get back to where we were” pre-pandemic. Sigh. Don’t we all wish for that?

Andrea Leigh

About Andrea Leigh

Andrea a nationally known thinker, writer, and speaker on retail transformation, digital marketing, and ecommerce strategy, Amazon and beyond. She comes to Ideoclick from Andrea K. Leigh Consulting, a firm she founded to advise brands on Amazon.com strategies. This former senior executive at Amazon led 15+ product categories, helped launch Amazon’s automated pricing system and CRaP programs, and ran Amazon Prime for Amazon Canada.

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