Amazon.com, 2016 Case Study Analysis & Solution

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Amazon.com, 2016 is a Harvard Business (HBR) Case Study on Strategy & Execution , Fern Fort University provides HBR case study assignment help for just $11. Our case solution is based on Case Study Method expertise & our global insights.

Strategy & Execution Case Study | Authors :: John R. Wells, Galen Danskin, Gabriel Ellsworth

Case Study Description

On January 28, 2016, Amazon announced record 2015 operating profits of $2.2 billion on $107 billion of sales, and the markets responded with cautious optimism. For years, founder and CEO Jeffrey Bezos had prioritized growth and investment in new business areas over profits, but pressure from analysts was mounting as growth was slowing and profits were failing to materialize. In 2014, Amazon had recorded a net loss of $241 million on revenues of $89 billion, in stark contrast to China's leading Internet player Alibaba, which reported $3.9 billion of net income on revenue of $12.3 billion. While Alibaba was a third-party marketplace with no distribution or inventory holding, Amazon's business model was more diverse. Amazon was primarily an online retail department store, offering a wide range of product categories, but it also maintained a significant third-party marketplace where it offered shipping, customer service, payment processing, and return services to independent retailers. Amazon also offered software and cloud storage services, online video streaming, and its own line of electronic hardware (mobile, e-reader, and smart television products). In addition, Amazon published books, hosted its own app store, funded video content development, and operated Amazon Prime, an annual membership program with a wide range of benefits. Indeed, Amazon's activities overlapped with those of Apple, Google, eBay, Alibaba, and many other companies. Amazon provided little information on the profitability of its lines of business, many of which were believed to be unprofitable. Which businesses would drive Amazon's future growth? Would the investments Amazon was making in market share eventually translate into profits? Or would another major competitor or business model replace Amazon? On a visit to the United States in June 2015, Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba, stated, "We're not coming here to compete." Could Amazon or its investors afford to believe him?

Business models, Business processes, Competition, Data, Financial management, Growth strategy, Human resource management, International business, Internet, IT, Marketing, Mobile, Policy, Professional transitions, Workspaces

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[10 Steps] Case Study Analysis & Solution

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Step 1 - Reading up Harvard Business Review Fundamentals on the Strategy & Execution


Even before you start reading a business case study just make sure that you have brushed up the Harvard Business Review (HBR) fundamentals on the Strategy & Execution. Brushing up HBR fundamentals will provide a strong base for investigative reading. Often readers scan through the business case study without having a clear map in mind. This leads to unstructured learning process resulting in missed details and at worse wrong conclusions. Reading up the HBR fundamentals helps in sketching out business case study analysis and solution roadmap even before you start reading the case study. It also provides starting ideas as fundamentals often provide insight into some of the aspects that may not be covered in the business case study itself.

Step 2 - Reading the Amazon.com, 2016 HBR Case Study

To write an emphatic case study analysis and provide pragmatic and actionable solutions, you must have a strong grasps of the facts and the central problem of the HBR case study. Begin slowly - underline the details and sketch out the business case study description map. In some cases you will able to find the central problem in the beginning itself while in others it may be in the end in form of questions. Business case study paragraph by paragraph mapping will help you in organizing the information correctly and provide a clear guide to go back to the case study if you need further information.
My case study strategy involves -

  • Marking out the protagonist and key players in the case study from the very start.
  • Drawing a motivation chart of the key players and their priorities from the case study description.
  • Refine the central problem the protagonist is facing in the case and how it relates to the HBR fundamentals on the topic.
  • Evaluate each detail in the case study in light of the HBR case study analysis core ideas.

Step 3 - Amazon.com, 2016 Case Study Analysis

Once you are comfortable with the details and objective of the business case study proceed forward to put some details into the analysis template. You can do business case study analysis by following Fern Fort University step by step instructions -

  • Company history is provided in the first half of the case. You can use this history to draw a growth path and illustrate vision, mission and strategic objectives of the organization. Often history is provided in the case not only to provide a background to the problem but also provide the scope of the solution that you can write for the case study.
  • HBR case studies provide anecdotal instances from managers and employees in the organization to give a feel of real situation on the ground. Use these instances and opinions to mark out the organization's culture, its people priorities & inhibitions.
  • Make a time line of the events and issues in the case study. Time line can provide the clue for the next step in organization's journey. Time line also provides an insight into the progressive challenges the company is facing in the case study.

Step 4 - SWOT Analysis of Amazon.com, 2016

Once you finished the case analysis, time line of the events and other critical details. Focus on the following -

  • Zero down on the central problem and two to five related problems in the case study.
  • Do the SWOT analysis of the Amazon.com, 2016 . SWOT analysis is a strategic tool to map out the strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats that a firm is facing.
  • SWOT analysis and SWOT Matrix will help you to clearly mark out - Strengths Weakness Opportunities & Threats that the organization or manager is facing in the Amazon.com, 2016
  • SWOT analysis will also provide a priority list of problem to be solved.
  • You can also do a weighted SWOT analysis of Amazon.com, 2016 HBR case study.

Step 5 - Porter 5 Forces / Strategic Analysis of Industry Analysis Amazon.com, 2016

In our live classes we often come across business managers who pinpoint one problem in the case and build a case study analysis and solution around that singular point. Business environments are often complex and require holistic solutions. You should try to understand not only the organization but also the industry which the business operates in. Porter Five Forces is a strategic analysis tool that will help you in understanding the relative powers of the key players in the business case study and what sort of pragmatic and actionable case study solution is viable in the light of given facts.

Step 6 - PESTEL, PEST / STEP Analysis of Amazon.com, 2016

Another way of understanding the external environment of the firm in Amazon.com, 2016 is to do a PESTEL - Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental & Legal analysis of the environment the firm operates in. You should make a list of factors that have significant impact on the organization and factors that drive growth in the industry. You can even identify the source of firm's competitive advantage based on PESTEL analysis and Organization's Core Competencies.

Step 7 - Organizing & Prioritizing the Analysis into Amazon.com, 2016 Case Study Solution

Once you have developed multipronged approach and work out various suggestions based on the strategic tools. The next step is organizing the solution based on the requirement of the case. You can use the following strategy to organize the findings and suggestions.

  • Build a corporate level strategy - organizing your findings and recommendations in a way to answer the larger strategic objective of the firm. It include using the analysis to answer the company's vision, mission and key objectives , and how your suggestions will take the company to next level in achieving those goals.
  • Business Unit Level Solution - The case study may put you in a position of a marketing manager of a small brand. So instead of providing recommendations for overall company you need to specify the marketing objectives of that particular brand. You have to recommend business unit level recommendations. The scope of the recommendations will be limited to the particular unit but you have to take care of the fact that your recommendations are don't directly contradict the company's overall strategy. For example you can recommend a low cost strategy but the company core competency is design differentiation.
  • Case study solutions can also provide recommendation for the business manager or leader described in the business case study.

Step 8 -Implementation Framework

The goal of the business case study is not only to identify problems and recommend solutions but also to provide a framework to implement those case study solutions. Implementation framework differentiates good case study solutions from great case study solutions. If you able to provide a detailed implementation framework then you have successfully achieved the following objectives -

  • Detailed understanding of the case,
  • Clarity of HBR case study fundamentals,
  • Analyzed case details based on those fundamentals and
  • Developed an ability to prioritize recommendations based on probability of their successful implementation.

Implementation framework helps in weeding out non actionable recommendations, resulting in awesome Amazon.com, 2016 case study solution.

Step 9 - Take a Break

Once you finished the case study implementation framework. Take a small break, grab a cup of coffee or whatever you like, go for a walk or just shoot some hoops.

Step 10 - Critically Examine Amazon.com, 2016 case study solution

After refreshing your mind, read your case study solution critically. When we are writing case study solution we often have details on our screen as well as in our head. This leads to either missing details or poor sentence structures. Once refreshed go through the case solution again - improve sentence structures and grammar, double check the numbers provided in your analysis and question your recommendations. Be very slow with this process as rushing through it leads to missing key details. Once done it is time to hit the attach button.