The Era of Shareholder Appeasement

Amazon has blossomed into a very diverse business with a massive product portfolio. As a shopper, we look at Amazon as this marquee marketplace for third party goods. Let’s be honest, they’re amazing at delivering products quickly and at a great price. But at what cost? And at whose expense? [10–30% of a brand’s margin, but we can get into that later.]

As eCommerce has fueled revenue growth, Amazon has compounded the value they’ve been able to gather off of shopper income and brand margin, but it is only sustainable so far. As Amazon has moved into other margin-gauging tactics like Amazon Ads, Amazon Fulfillment, and marketplace seller fees, there’s only so far they’re able to go into the share of a dollar from a merchant before it becomes a counterintuitive environment for certain product categories or for certain brands to sell through. In order for Amazon to maintain the clip of revenue generation that it has established for shareholders, they’re forced to enact net new strategies that maintain the upside of growth that people are hungry for.

It took Amazon a long time to get to the point where it was operating efficiently from a profit standpoint on the marketplace model, and now that they have, it isn’t a beast that they can afford to stop feeding. Enter strategies like private line development and the launch of the Amazon Media network, all enacted in order to hit revenue goals so that they can continue to appease shareholders. Is it sustainable? I don’t think it is. Amazon has diversified and is positioned to move into so many different sectors but they don’t realize the damage they’re actually inflicting on retail and eCommerce inside of fashion, home decor or any of the key categories. It’s got to be the smartest company on the planet but there’s no way that they can believe that these tactics and the damage that’s occurring against third party sellers and brands is part of a future where they’re a meaningful player in commerce.

At the end of the day, appeasing shareholders is at the top of the list. If you look at the personal net income of Bezos, I’d argue he’s shareholder Number 1. He has architected his share strategy so that he wins. There was a long time there where dividends were a faux pas, all the meanwhile Bezos was amassing wealth off of the margin of brands. While a brand is just wanting to develop meaningful products for shoppers, run their business, manage their inventory, and continue to provide jobs, they’re being as relegated out of the process as possible in order to afford for someone to build jets and try to take himself to the moon. So, when I talk about shareholder value, it’s a pretty tight scope of who that ends up appeasing.