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19 Facts You May Not Have Known About

By Nathan Hamilton - Dec 27, 2015 at 7:31AM

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You might be surprised.

Source: Wikimedia Commons. (AMZN 1.12%), now a $331 billion online powerhouse, is one of the most successful companies of the past several decades, and shares have multiplied an astounding 710 times since the company went public in 1997. Here are 19 other facts you may not have known about the e-commerce darling.

1. Amazon could very well be in the early innings of its growth potential. Consider: U.S. e-commerce sales now account for only 7.4% of total retail sales, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This percentage has steadily marched upward since 2006, when online sales accounted for 2.8% of total retail sales:

E-commerce sales as a percentage of total retail sales. Source: U.S. Census Bureau.

2. One in every 10 Americans -- 10.7% of the population, to be exact -- has an Amazon Prime membership. What's more astounding is that Prime subscribers spend an average of $1,200 annually, compared with $700 for non-subscribers, according to GeekWire.

3. Prime Now, the company's on-call local delivery service, will probably push e-commerce sales further as the service expands. Keep in mind that Prime Now is available in only 20 metro areas right now -- but that's up from zero just over one year ago.

4. Former Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson recently told us about the company's drone program, which aims to deliver items in 30 minutes.

5. Amazon's fastest order delivered to date was a four-pack of Starbucks vanilla Frappuccino to a customer in Miami. The delivery was made in under 10 minutes.

6. Amazon owns the patent on any one-click online checkout process. Other companies wanting to offer one-click checkout must license the patent from Amazon. (However, Amazon's patent on the technology will disappear in 2017.)

7. Amazon built a completely separate $6 billion-revenue business in under a decade. Amazon's cloud-division revenue is now bigger than that of its four nearest competitors combined. In fact, Amazon finally pulled back the curtain on Amazon Web Services, or AWS, revealing that it generated $1.57 billion in revenue in the most recent quarter. Some estimates have pegged AWS's value at up to $50 billion.

8. Alphabet's (GOOG -0.30%) (GOOGL -0.31%) Google went on record claiming that Amazon is its biggest competitor in search advertising. In fact, Amazon's secretive engineering lab in Palo Alto, Calif., called A9, was originally built to unseat Google in search advertising. Fast-forward to today, and the lab is still relatively secretive and has advanced Amazon's product search and advertising technology.

9. Amazon and Google have been engaged in an engineer talent war for years. The most publicized engineer to leave Amazon was Udi Manber, whom Google poached from A9 to lead its bread-and-butter search advertising business.

10. Jeff Bezos scored early investments in some of the biggest era-defining tech trends, including Twitter, AirBNB, and Uber. His net worth may also be a few billion dollars higher than what's been reported in the media. In 1998, Bezos cut Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin a $250,000 check to fund their start-up. It's estimated his cost basis in Google stock is anywhere from $0.04 to $0.06 per share. Unfortunately for curious outsiders, Bezos hasn't commented on whether he still owns shares.

11. Before founding Amazon, Bezos was a computer scientist at hedge-fund titan D.E. Shaw, which has amassed $30 billion in assets under management.

12. Amazon-owned shoe retailer Zappos is a pioneer in corporate culture. The company recently underwent a massive shift by implementing what it calls "holocracy" -- an on-the-fringes culture and organizational structure in which hierarchy is nonexistent. Zappos offered employees a three-month severance if they didn't believe in the approach and desired to leave, and 14% of the workforce did just that.

13. Speaking of Zappos, Amazon strong-armed it into being bought out. Zappos rebuffed Amazon's first acquisition offer, but Bezos didn't relent. He next built a website called that specialized in selling shoes while undercutting Zappos on price. While Zappos' sales continued to skyrocket, the company hit a rough patch in 2008 after overextending itself with inventory purchases. That was the point at which conversations between the two companies changed, and Zappos soon agreed to be bought out for $850 million.

14. Amazon is so reliant on robots for order fulfillment that it purchased robotics and automation provider Kiva Systems for $775 million in 2012. As of early 2015, Amazon employed a fleet of 15,000 robots.

15. Pause for one second. Amazon just shipped 35 items in that time frame.

Amazon fulfillment center. Image source: Álvaro Ibáñez. Re-published under CC BY 2.0.

16. The company's fulfillment process has become so efficient that company executives believe it can ship up to 1.5 million items per day from just one fulfillment center .

17. Amazon isn't shy about its desire to squeeze out its shipping partners. Negotiations between its delivery and distribution partners have been fierce at times, and Amazon is slowly moving to take over shipping operations where possible. The company just purchased a fleet of trailers to move freight between fulfillment centers and is even in negotiations with Boeing to lease up to 20 767s.

18. Amazon is relentless in everything it does. Whether it's efficiency, undercutting competitors on price, or its frenetic work environment that has taken some knocks in the media, the company always has the pedal pushed to the floor. Actually, type into your Web browser and see the result.

19. Amazon is well known for its low margins and meager cash flow. You might be surprised to hear that the company's actual cash flow is much lower than reported in financial statements. Chalk it up to (legal) accounting chicanery that determines when cash flows are recognized. For those wanting an accounting lesson on how this is possible, read this article from fellow Fool Timothy Green.

Nathan Hamilton owns shares of Alphabet (A shares),, Starbucks, and Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A shares), Alphabet (C shares),, Starbucks, and Twitter. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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