- Amazon has grown from an online bookseller to a domineering tech giant since it was founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994.
- Even when Amazon was young, Bezos had an extraordinary vision for the future of his company.
- Here are some of the most accurate predictions Jeff Bezos made twenty years ago in 1999.
Twenty years ago, in 1999, Amazon was a five-year-old kindergartner startup navigating the early e-commerce market.
That didn't stop CEO Jeff Bezos from dreaming big, however. At the time, Amazon had just started to expand its offerings beyond books. But Bezos was already painting then-outlandish visions of his customer-first website becoming the one-stop marketplace for everything.
Flash forward to today and Bezos' is the richest man in the world, worth more than $141 billion .
Here are 8 predictions Jeff Bezos made in 1999 that are right on the money:
"We want to try and build a place where people can come to find and discover anything that they might want to buy online," Bezos said in an appearance on Charlie Rose's talk show.
AP Photo/Andy Rogers
"Strip malls are history."
Malls across the U.S. have been closing due to the "retail apocalypse" that's seen thousands of storefronts forced to shutter. A 2018 report from Credit Suisse estimated that 20 to 25% of malls would shut down over the next five years, indicating that there's still more truth to Bezos' quote from Wired .
Bezos predicted that physical storefronts would only survive if they could provide at least one of two core features: "entertainment value" or "immediate convenience."
AP Photo/Stevan Morgain
Bezos said "entertainment value"' is why places like movie theaters won't die. "That experience is what you get when you go to movie theaters, and why you don't always rent movies, right?" Bezos said to Wired.
Like he predicted, many malls and retailers have looked at these two paths to stay relevant. Some have transformed their stores to offer high-tech experiences to get customers into their brick-and-mortar locations.
Meanwhile, Bezos wanted a piece of that "immediate convenience" world for Amazon which spurred him to buy Whole Foods and experiment with other physical retail stores.
"You can take care of the last mile of delivery yourself at any time," Bezos told Wired in 1999.
"I'm a big believer in this notion of sort of appliances, that there'll be lots of little things that are connected to the Internet ... there'll be a whole bunch of things sort of connected to the network."
Shayanne Gal/Business Insider
It seems like Bezos predicted the smart home back in 1999. Amazon now offers countless of its own smart home devices , all Alexa-enabled, such as Echo speakers, plugs, clocks, microwaves, and home security systems.
In 1999, Amazon and Barnes & Nobles were seen as direct competitors in the book-selling business. "I bet you a year from now they will not consider us direct competitors," Bezos told Wired. "Clearly they do today, but we're on different paths ... we're trying to invent the future of ecommerce, and they're just defending their turf."
While Barnes & Noble has largely remained a bookstore, Amazon counts books as just one product in its ever-growing marketplace. Perhaps in the early days of e-readers the two brands were seen as direct competitors, but the Amazon's Kindle has greatly outpaced Barnes & Nobles' Nook.
"Advertising is also a very valid model on the 'net. They're going to be able to make their ads more meaningful to customers by better targeting your ads, something that's hard to do in broadcast."
AP Photo/Richard Drew
Personalized ads, using data from people's search and shopping histories, are commonplace today. As live TV consumption continues to decline, more and more money is consistently being put into digital advertising .
As of late 2018, Amazon was on track to becoming the third largest digital advertiser in the US behind Google and Facebook.
"There's nothing more frustrating than having to wait two minutes for your computer to boot up ... by the time I've waited the two minutes, I've forgotten what I was going to do. So that's, I think, a very important technology. And people are working on it. That one's going to happen some time."
AP Photo/Richard Drew
Bezos mentioned his gripe with the long wait time to start up his computer on several interviews in 1999. In an interview with Charlie Rose , Bezos guessed that computers would soon be equipped with what he referred to as "instant-on."
Between smartphones that give you answers in the palm of your hand and laptops that don't need to be turned off after each use, he nailed that one. Technology has never been so readily accessible.
Wired's 1999 profile outlined the Amazon CEO's vision for 2020: "The vast bulk of store-bought goods food staples, paper products, cleaning supplies, and the like you will order electronically. "
Amazon; Samantha Lee/Business Insider
While "vast bulk" may be an overstatement, online shopping has skyrocketed. Amazon has become a favorite for buying everyday essentials and household products, especially with offerings like product subscriptions, voice-activated shopping via Alexa and Prime Pantry that streamline ordering such items.
Not every one of Bezos' predictions have been wholly accurate, though.
Bezos discussed Amazon's use of customer data in an interview for CBS' "60 Minutes." In the segment, reporter Bob Simon says this startling line: "Bezos refuses to rule out selling the valuable information to other companies in the future. But he doesn't think his customers are concerned about the issue."
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