Amazon has done an Amazing job at execution. I recently had yet another pleasant experience using an Amazon Locker as a delivery point. Amazing idea, very well done. I see this kind of excellence again and again. In this post, I’d like to point out one thing that I believe enables this.
Amazon calls itself “Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company”. Of course, everyone says they’re customer focussed, but few really are. One secret is that Amazon has one customer which simplifies that focus.
Other big tech companies are more confusing.
Take Google. Should the search team focus on delivering an awesome, unbiased search experience? Or a great advertiser experience – the real customer? Should the Android team build the best possible end user experience, or make Android simple and easy for the phone OEMs who are really the customer? Should the Gmail team focus on user experience, or work to gather data needed to support their advertising ambitions? Should the YouTube team include all content, or filter out “edgy” content to build their brand with advertisers? Should the Gmail team build an android client that’s great with other mail services?
Microsoft is similarly conflicted. If the Xbox team includes edgy content, they must worry enterprise buyers will be unhappy. Windows needs to gather data to support ad businesses that users may not want to share. They also must balance the needs of OEMs vs. end users and vs. their 1st party hardware businesses. Office constantly has to balance the needs of enterprise IT managers vs. end users. Wrangling these decisions takes up executive time and inevitably compromises someone’s experience.
I think on the whole these companies do a good job of maintaining these balances, and it’s not their fault: They are just huge, multi-sided businesses who serve many masters. In many ways, this is a strength. But the result is inevitably a more conflicted product offering.
Amazon, on the other hand, has the luxury of being focussed and thus serving only one master. Conflict between suppliers and consumers? Consumers win. Employees vs. consumers? Consumers win. Affiliates, developers, advertisers and even shareholders seem to take a back seat to consumers in most cases. It must simplify and speed decision making to have this business limitation!
Apple likewise is in the business of designing products end to end to satisfy only one customer – the device buyer. They don’t always make good choices (ahem headphone jack) but these are mistakes – not conflicts of interest. For example, their Mail and Calendaring apps are truly honest brokers between Gmail, outlook.com, corporate email, and iCloud mail. Apple isn’t in the services or data businesses and thus can always ask, “what’s best for the end user” in a way many other tech titans can’t.
It’s likely Amazon will get more complicated over time. They’re now in a variety of businesses with AWS, retail, 1st party devices, and consumer services all growing in importance. At some point, they too may have to make their users deal with compromises so they can serve other constituencies. But for now, I’m enjoying been 100% of the focus of their attention.