* 我们显著提升了用户体验，推出的服务包括申请了专利的一键购入、礼品键（Gift Click）、全店销售排行榜和即时推荐。
* 我们的现金和融资（cash and investment balance）自我们在1998年5月发行垃圾债（High yield debt）和99年初发行可转债（convertible debt）之后，达到了大约15亿美金。这为我们提供了很有利的财务支持和战略弹性。
努力干，好好享受，并创造历史（Work Hard, Have Fun, Make History）
你崇拜他吗？* 想想那些你们崇拜的人，你们一定能从他们身上学到东西。就我个人而言，我一直努力只和我敬仰的人一起工作，我也建议我的同僚们在这个方面和我一样苛刻，毕竟生如夏花（Life is definitely too short to do otherwise. 虽然我翻译的十分有诗意，但还是放出原句，因为写的太好了）
他们的加入会拉高这只团队的平均水平吗？* 我们要尽力减少熵增（We want to fight entropy）。我们的标准必须持续提高。我要让大家能在五年后回想起今天，然后感到庆幸：“我去，还好我五年前来了，现在招人的标准都这么高了？”
在这封信中我最想说的其实都在去年的信里。去年的信里详细记载了我们企业长期的战略。鉴于我们有很多新股东（去年我们印了13000封致股东信，今年会印至少20万封），我们将去年的信附在了文后（译者注：我就不附了，请自行翻我的笔记）。我推荐您读一下“一切都围绕长期价值展开（It’s All About Long Term）”那个章节。或许您应该多阅读几遍来确认我们是您想要投资的那种公司。我们当时说了，我们不认为我们的哲学是对的，但这就是我们的想法！
Jeffery P. Bezos
To our shareholders, customers, and employees:
The last 3½ years have been exciting. We’ve served a cumulative 6.2 million customers, exited 1998 with a $1 billion revenue run rate, launched music, video, and gift stores in the U.S., opened shop in the U.K. and Germany, and, just recently, launched Amazon.com Auctions.
We predict the next 3½ years will be even more exciting. We are working to build a place where tens of millions of customers can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online. It is truly Day 1 for the Internet and, if we execute our business plan well, it remains Day 1 for Amazon.com. Given what’s happened, it may be difficult to conceive, but we think the opportunities and risks ahead of us are even greater than those behind us. We will have to make many conscious and deliberate choices, some of which will be bold and unconventional. Hopefully, some will turn out to be winners. Certainly, some will turn out to be mistakes.
A Recap of 1998
Heads-down focus on customers helped us make substantial progress in 1998:
• Sales grew from $148 million in 1997 to $610 million – a 313% increase. • Cumulative customer accounts grew from 1.5 million at the end of 1997 to 6.2 million at the end of 1998 – an increase of over 300%.
• Despite this strong new customer growth, the percentage of orders placed on the Amazon.com Web site by repeat customers grew from over 58% in the fourth quarter of 1997 to over 64% in the same period in 1998.
• Our first major product expansion, the Amazon.com music store, became the leading online music retailer in its first full quarter.
• Following their October launch under the Amazon brand and with Amazon.com technology, the combined fourth-quarter sales in the U.K. and German stores nearly quadrupled over the third quarter, establishing Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de as the leading online booksellers in their markets.
• The addition of music was followed by the addition of video and gifts in November, and we became the leading online video retailer in only 6 weeks. • 25% of our fourth-quarter 1998 sales was derived from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, and music, video, and gift sales on Amazon.com, all very new businesses.
• We significantly improved the customer experience, with innovations like 1- ClickSM shopping, Gift Click, store-wide sales rank, and instant recommendations.
1998’s revenue and customer growth and achievement of continued growth in 1999 were and are dependent on expansion of our infrastructure. Some highlights:
• In 1998 our employee base grew from approximately 600 to over 2,100, and we significantly strengthened our management team.
• We opened distribution and customer service centers in the U.K. and Germany, and in early 1999, announced the lease of a highly-mechanized distribution center of approximately 323,000 square feet in Fernley, Nevada. This latest addition will more than double our total distribution capacity and allows us to even further improve time-to-mailbox for customers.
• Inventories rose from $9 million at the beginning of the year to $30 million by year end, enabling us to improve product availability for our customers and improve product costs through direct purchasing from manufacturers.
• Our cash and investment balances, following our May 1998 high yield debt offering and early 1999 convertible debt offering, now stand at well over $1.5 billion (on a pro forma basis), affording us substantial financial strength and strategic flexibility.
We’re fortunate to benefit from a business model that is cash-favored and capital efficient. As we do not need to build physical stores or stock those stores with inventory, our centralized distribution model has allowed us to build our business to a billion-dollar
sales rate with just $30 million in inventory and $30 million in net plant and equipment. In 1998, we generated $31 million in operating cash flow which more than offset net fixed asset additions of $28 million.
We intend to build the world’s most customer-centric company. We hold as axiomatic that customers are perceptive and smart, and that brand image follows reality and not the other way around. Our customers tell us that they choose Amazon.com and tell their friends about us because of the selection, ease-of-use, low prices, and service that we deliver.
But there is no rest for the weary. I constantly remind our employees to be afraid, to wake up every morning terrified. Not of our competition, but of our customers. Our customers have made our business what it is, they are the ones with whom we have a relationship, and they are the ones to whom we owe a great obligation. And we consider them to be loyal to us – right up until the second that someone else offers them a better service.
We must be committed to constant improvement, experimentation, and innovation in every initiative. We love to be pioneers, it’s in the DNA of the company, and it’s a good thing, too, because we’ll need that pioneering spirit to succeed. We’re proud of the differentiation we’ve built through constant innovation and relentless focus on customer experience, and we believe our initiatives in 1998 reflect it: our music, video, U.K. and German stores, like our U.S. bookstore, are best of breed.
Work Hard, Have Fun, Make History
It would be impossible to produce results in an environment as dynamic as the Internet without extraordinary people. Working to create a little bit of history isn’t supposed to be easy, and, well, we’re finding that things are as they’re supposed to be! We now have a team of 2,100 smart, hard-working, passionate folks who put customers first. Setting the bar high in our approach to hiring has been, and will continue to be, the single most important element of Amazon.com’s success.
During our hiring meetings, we ask people to consider three questions before making a decision:
• Will you admire this person? If you think about the people you’ve admired in your life, they are probably people you’ve been able to learn from or take an example from. For myself, I’ve always tried hard to work only with people I admire, and I encourage folks here to be just as demanding. Life is definitely too short to do otherwise.
• Will this person raise the average level of effectiveness of the group they’re entering? We want to fight entropy. The bar has to continuously go up. I ask people to visualize the company 5 years from now. At that point, each of us should look around and say, “The standards are so high now -- boy, I’m glad I got in when I did!”
• Along what dimension might this person be a superstar? Many people have unique skills, interests, and perspectives that enrich the work environment for all of us. It’s often something that’s not even related to their jobs. One person here is a National Spelling Bee champion (1978, I believe). I suspect it doesn’t help her in her everyday work, but it does make working here more fun if you can occasionally snag her in the hall with a quick challenge: “onomatopoeia!”
Goals for 1999
As we look forward, we believe that the overall e-commerce opportunity is enormous, and 1999 will be an important year. Although Amazon.com has established a strong leadership position, it is certain that competition will even further accelerate. We plan to invest aggressively to build the foundation for a multi-billion-dollar revenue company serving tens of millions of customers with operational excellence and high efficiency. Although this level of forward investment is costly and carries many inherent risks, we believe it will provide the best end-to-end experience for customers, and actually offer the least risky long-term value creation approach for investors.
The elements of our 1999 plan may not surprise you:
Distribution capacity − We intend to build out a significant distribution infrastructure to ensure that we can support all the sales our customers demand, with speedy access to a deep product inventory.
Systems capacity − We’ll be expanding our systems capacity to support similar growth levels. The systems group has a significant task: expand to meet near term growth, restructure systems for multi-billion dollar scale and tens of millions of customers, build out features and systems for new initiatives and new innovations, and increase operational excellence and efficiency. All while keeping a billion dollar, 8 million customer store up and available on a 24x7 basis.
Brand promise − Amazon.com is still a small and young company relative to the major offline retailers, and we must ensure that we build wide, strong customer relationships during this critical period.
Expanded product and service offerings − In 1999, we will continue to enhance the scope of our current product and service offerings, as well as add new initiatives. Amazon.com Auctions is our most recent addition. If any of you have not tried this new service, I encourage you to run – not walk – to www.amazon.com and click on the Auctions tab. As an Amazon.com customer, you are pre-registered to both bid and sell. As a seller, you have access to Amazon.com’s 8 million experienced online shoppers.
Bench strength and processes − We’ve complicated our business dramatically with new products, services, geographies, acquisitions and additions to our business model. We intend to invest in teams, processes, communication and people development practices. Scaling in this way is among the most challenging and difficult elements of our plan.
Amazon.com has made a number of strides forward in the past year, but there is still an enormous amount to learn and to do. We remain optimistic, but we also know we must remain vigilant and maintain a sense of urgency. We face many challenges and hurdles. Among them, aggressive, capable and well-funded competition; the growth challenges and execution risk associated with our own expansion; and the need for large continuing investments to meet an expanding market opportunity.
The most important thing I could say in this letter was said in last years’ letter, which detailed our long-term investment approach. Because we have so many new shareholders (this year we’re printing more than 200,000 of these letters – last year we printed about 13,000), we’ve appended last year’s letter immediately after this year’s. I invite you to please read the section entitled It’s All About the Long Term. You might want to read it twice to make sure we’re the kind of company you want to be invested in. As it says there, we don’t claim it’s the right philosophy, we just claim it’s ours!
All the best and sincere thanks once again to our customers and shareholders and all the folks here who are working passionately every day to build an important and lasting company.
Jeffrey P. Bezos
Founder and Chief Executive Officer