I’ve just re-read Jeff Bezos 1997 letter to shareholders. It’s a great example of clear story telling and bold strategy, but most importantly Bezos’ judgement is amazing, and much of it stands the test of time. The title of this post is a bastardisation of this quote from the letter:
Today, online commerce saves customers money and precious time. Tomorrow, through personalization, online commerce will accelerate the very process of discovery
We are ecommerce investors and 17 years after this letter was written personalisation is one of our investment themes. Our portfolio companies Thread, Stylect, and Top10 all aim to win on the basis of larger range, and better personalisation and discovery. I think this theme has some way to go. Buying high value items online, especially ones with emotional drivers, is still painful, largely because it’s hard to know if the purchase is right for me. Free and streamlined returns processes have helped a lot, but the real prize comes from gathering more information about the purchase and purchaser and being smart with matching. Artificial intelligence has a large role to play, as do social signals and other new sources of data, including wearables.