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This Black Friday, What Can We Learn from Amazon?

Of a list of Amazon’s business achievements, the boldest has to be when the company tried to introduce Black Friday to the British market in 2010. Its efforts were mocked at the time, but seven years later — for better or for worse — Black Friday has become a mainstay of the British holiday season.

In 2016, British people spent nearly six billion pounds over four days across Black Friday and Cyber Monday. 2016 saw a 15% increase in sales from 2015 and there’s no reason why 2017 won’t be even bigger.

As the company that managed to introduce an entire weekend dedicated to retail to the fifth largest economy in the world, there’s a lot businesses can learn from Amazon about encouraging people to buy. Of course, not everything Amazon has done is admirable, so there’s a lot we can learn from their mistakes, too.


People are willing to spend more — despite what they claim

Amazon’s mentality is that people are always willing to part with their cash. For years, Britons laughed at the notion of Black Friday. We would never indulge in such crass consumerism, we said to ourselves. However, Amazon is great at giving people a reason to buy. It knew that — deep down — British people are just as eager to spend billions in the name of a deal as Americans are. As the old saying goes, build it and they will spend.

Another example of this is Amazon’s “free delivery”. We all know that this free delivery comes with a cost, a minimum spend of £20, but things weren’t always this way. For years, Amazon offered UK shoppers a minimum spend of £10 for free delivery. In 2017, most British shoppers still say they expect free delivery on items over £10. Amazon’s previous stance is probably a big reason for this.

Yet, despite how people claim they feel, Amazon was confident that we would be willing to spend more — a lot more — for free delivery, so it doubled the minimum spend threshold from £10 to £20 in 2015

Did British people start buying less from Amazon after this? Did we shop elsewhere in protest? Did Amazon regret its decision? No, no and no. Revenue in the UK in 2016 absolutely soared because Amazon knows that we are willing to spend more than we claim we are.

Every shopper likes to imagine themselves as a savvy saver, but Amazon knows better. The success of Black Friday is a perfect example of this, and the success of doubling its minimum spend threshold is an example of this, too.


Predicting the future is a form of investment

When Amazon spends money on robots or far-flung future technologies such as drones, these aren’t publicity stunts. They are big statements about what Amazon believes the future of shopping will look like. While “Cyber Monday” is supposed to be the online shopping extravaganza after Black Friday, Amazon knows that people are willing to shop online on both days. In fact, it knows that people are willing to shop online on any day of the year.

This is what the future of shopping looks like and Amazon knows it. What’s more, it’s willing to put its money where its mouth is.

This is what the future of shopping looks like and Amazon knows it. What’s more, it’s willing to put its money where its mouth is.

The Amazon warehouse and supply chain uses some of the most cutting-edge technology there is. While it’s easy to see investment in stuff like drone technology as smart, especially when drones can perform SEMA safety checks as well many other tasks, it’s worth remembering that all of these future technologies cost money.

That sounds like an obvious point to make, but it’s a point worth making where Amazon is concerned. After all, it’s one thing to spend all of your money on future technology with your own profits, but it’s quite another to do this with the money of investors…

Amazon’s investor model is the exception, not the rule

You would have thought, considering the size of Amazon and the fact that it’s been around for over 20 years, that it has been very profitable for a very long time. However, you’d been very wrong to think that.

The truth is that Amazon built its empire on the money of investors and — for many years — didn’t make a penny of profit. In 2004, a whole decade after the company was founded, it made its first year of profit. In 2017, Amazon is on its way to becoming the first ever trillion-dollar company.

It’s hard to know what to take away from this. On the one hand, Amazon’s tenacity is admirable and it should serve as an inspiration to any entrepreneur. On the other hand, trying to replicate what Amazon did is a huge gamble which can quickly put you millions of pounds in debt.


Justin O’Sullivan is an entrepreneur and a warehousing and logistics expert. As the owner of Storage Equipment Experts, Justin provides logistical and safety advice for businesses on warehouse best practice.

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