In the past 20 years, Amazon‘s operating strategy has shifted from an online retailer to B2B service provider, offering a stack of critical infrastructure as a service to other businesses. In cases where operations were initially outsourced, Amazon developed in-house, technology-driven solutions. Once successful, these solutions were offered as an external service to third-party businesses. Amazon is adding logistics primarily to meet its own growth, but over time, Amazon will likely offer this expertise to third parties as well. In 2014, Amazon started to focus on logistics components that were previously outsourced – first inbound logistics (Amazon started by offering outsourced consolidation for international sellers in 2014) and then, in 2015, home delivery. In 2016, Amazon leased an air fleet, while Amazon trucks started appearing on the road. For the first time, packages were delivered by Amazon employees passing via robot-operated Amazon warehouses. More recently, Amazon successfully filed to function as a freight forwarder. In summary, Amazon has made a habit of extending internal services into third-party services supported by technology-driven disruption. Logistics companies must keep pace with the technological innovation that Amazon is likely to deploy. Amazon Logistics Services may well emerge as a new platform in the next decade, unseating and disrupting existing freight leaders.
Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba is also embracing logistics. Alibaba has grown to be one of the largest companies in China and the world. Alibaba’s five largest individual and institutional shareholders as of November 2018 are Softbank (an information technology company based in Japan – share of 29.11%), Yahoo! (14.95%), Jack Yun Ma (7%), Joseph C. Tsai (2.5%), and T. Rowe Price (2.2%). Alibaba is implementing an investment plan of USD 15 billion for 2017-2022 to build a global logistics network. Alibaba co-founded the Chinese logistics platform Cainiao in 2013, with partners including department store owner Intime Group, conglomerate Fosun Group and a few logistics companies. Alibaba became the majority holder (51%) of Cainiao in 2017. Cainiao Logistics operates an information platform that connects and coordinates a network of more than 3,000 logistics and delivery partners. In 2019, Alibaba made its fourth investment in the domestic delivery sector, purchasing 15% of STO Express for USD 693 million. Alibaba also owns 10% of ZTO, 11% of YTO, and 27.9% of Best Logistics. Alibaba is also investing heavily in the further internationalization of its activities. For example, in 2018, the company announced the establishment of a European distribution hub in Liège (Belgium).