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  • Writer's pictureHassan Younes

4 Ways Amazon Shunned Complacency to Edge Out Barnes & Noble

Amazon is the biggest and most influential e-commerce company in the world today.

In fact, more than 197 million people access every month. It’s become a one-stop online platform for many, where they can buy electronics, homeware, toys, music, movies, and a lot more.

Not only that but Amazon also offers a host of web services. These include renting out computing resources and data storage across the internet.

But Amazon wasn’t always an online retail and technology giant. It actually had its beginnings as a bookstore.

When the company’s founder, Jeff Bezos, started Amazon in the mid-1990s, the first product he ever sold online was a book. And the business soon found a fierce rival in Barnes and Noble.

At the time, Barnes and Noble was the largest bookstore chain in the United States. It had over 500 stores in operation when Amazon was just starting to make waves.

Today, Amazon has built itself into an international success.

Barnes and Noble, on the other hand, has fizzled out. After a series of tumultuous years, the company was finally acquired by a hedge fund in 2019.

So, what did Amazon do to catapult itself to the kind of success that Barnes and Noble wasn’t able to achieve?

Amazon shunned complacency.

And there are four ways the company did this. This article will dive into how Amazon overcame complacency and what you can learn from its achievements.

The 4 Ways

Way #1 - Innovate

Bezos understands that failure is a part of innovation. This is why experimenting, even if they don’t always yield good results, is a key feature of Amazon's culture.

Take the Kindle ebook reader for example.

Amazon bravely entered the electronic device market with the Kindle e-reader in 2007. This was despite the company having no hardware experience.

Everyone else advised against it. And true enough, a lot of obstacles and difficulties surfaced during the process.

But in the end, the Kindle e-reader turned out to be a game-changer.

Amazon took this as an opportunity to carefully develop new products. They did it by challenging common assumptions in the market.

And they have been doing it again and again ever since.

With Echo, Amazon established the smart speaker market. Meanwhile, their Alexa device features 30,000 “Skills” or applications users can choose from, the majority of which were created by outside developers. And new applications are being added all the time.

Amazon’s openness to testing new ideas allowed the company to evolve from an online retailer into a movie studio, hardware company, grocery store, and web services provider.

By embracing the culture of innovation, Amazon was able to surpass its own expectations.

After all, it’s when you try and experiment that you move forward. Even if you fail or make mistakes, there’s always something you can learn from to become better.

Amazon knows that all too well.

Way #2 - Go Global

Amazon has been a solid presence in the American market for over two decades. And other countries have also shown interest in bringing Amazon to them locally.

From Germany to China and beyond, Amazon has been steady in its efforts to expand globally.

In fact, Amazon Germany is the company’s biggest international market. And it accounts for one-third of the company’s sales income.

Meanwhile, Amazon is responsible for over half of all online retail sales in Germany. 25% of these are produced by Marketplace independent vendors and 21% by

Of course, Amazon isn’t taking the world all at once.

Instead, it’s expanding its operations one country at a time. The company is even currently making moves to establish itself in India and Latin America.

Amazon’s efforts to go global might still be in the early stages. But this is enough to show that there is a promising future ahead for the company.

After all, they don’t limit themselves to what they know is possible. This is why when the company achieved dominance in the United States, it set its sights on bigger goals.

Your continuous efforts to grow and reach higher ambitions are the same. It becomes possible the moment you believe that it is.

Way #3 - Work Everyday Like It’s Your First Day

Amazon employs close to 600,000 people. Now, it might seem that an organization of that size would move at a slower pace, much like how other established businesses do.

But Bezos runs the company with a different approach. He has declared that Amazon will run like a hungry startup from the get-go. So, they’ll work as if it were the company's first day.

This is also known as the “Day 1 mentality.”

He said that a company’s second day is marked by stasis. And the following days by irrelevance, ultimately leading to a steady yet painful decline.

But by picturing each day as the company’s first, they create a mindset of urgency.

To start with, decisions are made much quicker – and they get made even with just 70% of the information available. They don’t wait until they get 90% of the information they need before taking action.

Likewise, they don’t hesitate to embrace external trends because they know these will impact how they provide customer value.

This “Day 1 mentality” allowed Amazon to continuously grow and expand. All while setting itself apart from many of its competitors.

When you learn to adopt a similar mindset, you’ll find that much of your decision-making becomes easier. After all, you can give yourself space to get creative and find ways to overcome challenges you thought were impossible.

Way #4 - Give Your Customers What They Want

At Amazon, employees are encouraged to be obsessed with the customer.

This means every new product or idea is created with the customer’s satisfaction in mind. The goal is to continually increase the value the company provides to its customers.

Because of this obsession, Amazon has become increasingly close to its consumers. And this enables them to focus on creating solutions that will make them an integral part of their customers' lives.

Customer obsession is even a core component of the company’s leadership principles. Although its leaders pay attention to competitors, their priority is still the customer.

Now, how is Amazon’s idea of customer obsession different from customer focus?

For one thing, they don’t simply listen to what their customers have to say. Instead, they use consumer science to conduct testing and learning sessions to find the best solutions to offer them.

Another thing is that Amazon pioneers new spaces and market frontiers. This allows them to invent and be the first to meet consumers’ demands while ensuring less competition.

And finally, they think about long-term customer delight. Their focus is not just on giving temporary customer satisfaction but on delivering on customers’ future needs.

Amazon doesn’t stick to the standards of how to satisfy customers. They go beyond what is already there and make it better.

This mindset is something you must adopt in both your business and personal life to avoid being complacent. Learn to surpass what you think is already your 100%. The best you can do can always be made better when you do the work.

Strive to Follow Amazon’s Approach

There is much to learn from how Amazon continuously shuns complacency. From embracing a culture of innovation to working like it’s your first day in business…

You can follow the different ways mentioned above to avoid being complacent and create the change you want to see in your life.

Take the cue from Amazon and face the possibility of failure or making mistakes. Learn to become obsessed with reaching your goals no matter how big they may seem. And of course, believe in yourself that you can surpass your own expectations.

Still don’t think these are possible?

Luckily, I can offer you some help. Feel free to reach out to me and find out how my speaking services can help you overcome complacency, just like the people at Amazon.


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