If the popularity of Brad Stone’s book, “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon,” is any indication, consumers are fascinated by Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) behind-the-scenes work. More than ever, shoppers are making the majority of their purchases from the e-commerce giant that is Amazon, but that doesn’t mean they foster any more understanding of how their favorite website works, and Amazon would like to keep things that way .
As highlighted by Benedict Evans in a blog post Wednesday, it’s no secret that Amazon is one of the most enigmatic companies in consumer tech, and it doesn’t look like that reality is going anywhere anytime soon. Unlike its rivals, Amazon never discloses certain operating metrics — it still has yet to release unit sales for Kindle — and it purposely only publishes the bare minimum when it comes to operation details. If you’ve caught on to the fact that Amazon never agrees to comment on news stories, you’re not the only one. Amazon spokespeople are notorious for declining to comment, and it’s not because they don’t have a lot to say. In fact, they have a lot to say — they just keep their lips zipped so as to keep themselves from offering any information that could scathe Amazon’s currently running narratives. Evans points out that it is in Amazon’s best interest to only allow reporters to support its two major narratives — Amazon offers very good value, and Amazon is impossible to compete with — so allowing employees to provide any information that would discredit those realities would not be in Amazon’s best interests.
So Amazon workers remain tight-lipped. Sure, certain news has to get through the cracks, such as how hard Amazon works its employees, and how ruthless it is when it comes to startup acquisitions, but in the end, even those negative stories support one of Amazon’s two narratives, so the Seattle, Washington-based company isn’t too worried about appearing a little rough around the edges, especially if it means scaring off potential competition. Hearing about how brutal Amazon’s corporate culture is could dissuade workers from potentially applying there, but more importantly, it could also dissuade rivals from ever trying to compete.
Despite Amazon’s secrecy, though, there is still one segment of its business that it is willing to share with the public: its warehouses and logistics operations division. Evans reports that Amazon allows photographers and journalists to enter its warehouses and report from within, and this gives onlookers a window into how Amazon’s fulfillment centers work from the inside.
What could possibly be advantageous about that, you ask? It all goes back to those two narratives: Amazon offers very good value, and Amazon is impossible to compete with. Seeing pictures of Amazon’s impossibly large warehouses and organized operations remind rivals all too quickly why it is becoming almost absurd to even try to compete with Amazon. The e-commerce behemoth has covered every angle, nook, and cranny, and it is not leaving any idea or technological possibility behind.
There’s a famous quote that reads, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.” Amazon is keeping its rivals from doing exactly that. Staying purposely opaque about all operations except its warehouses keeps competitors in the dark as to what is really happening behind Amazon’s closed doors, and it appears as though CEO Jeff Bezos is still interested in keeping those doors locked tight.