Who knows what time Jeff Bezos had to get out of bed Tuesday for the 5:30 a.m. conference call with analysts? Who knows how many cups of coffee it took to jump-start his day?
By the time the sun rose over Seattle, however, Bezos and his executive team were whooping it up. The conference call ended with applause, cheers and someone giving a “running high five.”
They were celebrating, apparently too much to hang up the phone. And why not? Not only did Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) keep its profit promise, it exceeded expectations and even grew its core book and music categories.
And though its outlook came with a boatload of qualifiers and hedges, the sun shone as brightly on Amazon as ever.
The business world is a fickle place, though. Before the sun set on Seattle, the inevitable question already was being asked by investors and analysts alike: What next?
Coming up with an answer to that question may be Amazon’s biggest challenge yet.
Can Amazon deliver more of the same? Not necessarily. The e-tailer said it is likely to fall below the profit horizon again in the first quarter.
That’s not really a surprise, given the importance of the fourth quarter to all retailers.
Then there was all the waffling over predictions. So many factors could affect things, Amazon said, that its forecasts should not be considered gospel.
And, by the way, don’t expect to hear anything else about the future until the next earnings report — Amazon said it won’t be updating its guidance anytime soon.
All of this is fairly standard stuff. It does underscore the reality, however: Amazon still has plenty of work ahead of it.
Amazon did drop a few hints about where it might look for another way to impress its followers. Pay attention to the international flavor of the company. Not only did overseas sales grow 85 percent, but its German and UK operations both hit profitability, doing so in less than half the time it took Amazon to get there at home.
In addition, Amazon said nearly 30 percent of its sales now come from overseas buyers, including those who buy from the company’s U.S. division. And while the e-tailer eats some profits to make those overseas deliveries, it is expressing newfound confidence on that front as well.
The free-shipping offer that Amazon trotted out along with its earnings comes with a catch, of course; you have to spend a hundred bucks to get it.
That didn’t give shoppers too much pause during the holiday season, but what about the rest of the year? It seems like a potential trap. If I need only a single book, or even two, I might delay my purchase. Or I might go elsewhere, especially since competitors like BarnesandNoble.com have their own free-shipping offers still dangling out there.
But Amazon no doubt has done all the math and worked all the angles. And that might be the message that comes through most clearly about the company and its leaders right now. On Tuesday, they were in the driver’s seat. They were feeling confident. In control of their destiny.
And that was a refreshing change.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it.
Note: The opinions expressed by our columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the E-Commerce Times or its management.