20 Aug 2018
10 of the internet’s most successful companies, and what they’re doing right
Annual Revenues: $177.86 Billion
As internet companies go, they don’t come much bigger than American eCommerce megabrand Amazon. Currently the world’s 2nd most valuable company (internet or otherwise), Amazon has come a long way since its humble beginnings as an online bookseller.
Under the unwavering and visionary leadership of Jeff Bezos, Amazon has re-invested profits and grown consistently every year since its inception, and all indications are that it will continue to do so in the years to come as it strives to become the single dominant force in global retail.
Despite famously failing to turn a profit in its first 15 years of operation, Amazon has quickly risen in the ranks of the world’s most valuable companies, and now has its sights set firmly on its only remaining better: the mighty Apple.
The lesson: Playing the long game and re-investing revenues pays off… big time.
Annual Revenues: $110.8 Billion
Almost 75% of global internet searches are initiated using the world’s most dominant search engine: Google. Sure, there are a few die-hards out there still using AOL, as well as a fair number of folks who have (presumably) accidentally made Yahoo or Bing their device’s default browser, but Google has been dominating the internet search game for the better part of a decade. What’s more, Google’s stranglehold on the internet is only getting stronger.
With Google maintaining that level of control over the world’s internet activities, Alphabet Inc. has found itself in the privileged position of being able to make almost any digital company a success. That’s been great news for Alphabet’s non-Google companies. It has allowed Alphabet to develop a stable of successful tech and internet brands and position itself as one of the biggest brands in the digital space.
Once your internet brand becomes a commonly used verb – “Google it” -, your successfulness is no longer up for debate.
The lesson: There’s gold to be found in the protocol layer.
Annual Revenues: $55.7 Billion
While Amazon’s dominance over the US eCommerce market is largely above dispute, the world’s second-largest economy is a different story altogether. China has gone to great lengths to give its own internet companies and brands plenty of time and space to establish themselves in the Chinese market. And establish themselves they have.
With more than 1.3 billion citizens to sell wares to in China alone, Asia’s eCommerce giants have flourished in this rapidly-modernising region’s fertile soil and appear poised to give Amazon and eBay a run for their money. As China’s biggest eCommerce company, JD.com has built an impressive global brand with the infrastructure to match it.
This Chinese eCommerce giant has shown no signs of slowing down, and it has recently established itself in both the UK and France. The company has stated that it plans to be “everywhere in Europe in the next few years”.
The lesson: Global reach is the way of the future.
Annual Revenues: $40.65 Billion
While still a little short of China’s headcount of 1.3 billion people, the world’s most influential social network, Facebook is catching up quickly.
As the world watched platforms like Myspace alienate their own users with clumsy attempts at monetization, many wondered whether social media sites would ever be able to monetize their audiences effectively. In the past few years, many have risen to the challenge and silenced the doubters. Chief among these has been Facebook, which has allowed more than 5 million global companies to advertise on its site to date.
The fact is that the world’s brands have barely scratched the surface of the marketing potential of this social media behemoth. And, as brands become slicker and more efficient in optimising their approach to Facebook ads, the revenues Facebook marketing could generate in the years to come frankly boggle the mind.
The lesson: Monetization through marketing can work well, when it’s done right.
Annual Revenues: $21.9 Billion
Coming in at 2nd in China’s race to the top of internet company glory is Tencent Holdings, a Chinese multinational conglomerate with tentacles in almost every corner of digital commerce, from gaming to social media to investments.
It would take far too long to discuss every aspect of Tencent’s global digital reach, but suffice it to say that Tencent has a hand in almost every digital transaction in China as well as many abroad. Tencent’s influence over digital activity in China, from offering some of the world’s most successful online games to running China’s biggest mobile social media, payment, and messaging app WeChat, looks poised to grow by leaps and bounds in the years to come as its global expansion plans come to fruition.
The lesson: Speak softly, and carry a big audience.
Annual Revenues: $22.99 Billion
Many of the world’s most important C2C, B2C, and B2B sales channels are controlled by Chinese multinational eCommerce, retail, and technology conglomerate Alibaba Group Holding Limited. Much like Tencent, Alibaba is a key player in corners of international eCommerce too numerous to mention.
With the access and infrastructure to offer a multitude of Chinese-made products globally and at scale, products sold by Alibaba can be found on every eCommerce platform on the planet, many of these cheaper alternatives to products offered by the world’s most successful retail brands.
The lesson: Buy low, sell high.
Annual Revenues: $12.23 Billion
The internet’s most successful travel booking site, Booking.com offers more than 28 million lodging listings in 229 countries worldwide. Available in 43 languages and currently boasting more than 1.5 million room nights booked each day, this travel fare aggregator website has become the dominant player in a lucrative digital travel booking industry that generated more than 600 billion dollars in revenues in 2017 alone.
The lesson: Playing the middleman pays, especially in travel.
Annual Revenues: $ 8.98 Billion
Using a new technology to solve a simple real-world problem in an elegant way is the surest path to success. The eCommerce pioneers at eBay identified the internet’s innate capacity to connect sellers of hard-to-find items with the enthusiasts and collectors who wanted to buy them at just the right time, and delivered a platform to make such transactions safe and reliable for both parties.
Sure, Amazon may get all the press, but no brand has done more to drive consumer acceptance of (and trust in) the concept of eCommerce than online shopping trendsetter eBay. With its user-friendly platform and massive selection of unique, vintage, and collectable goods, eBay has carved itself out an extremely comfortable (and profitable) digital niche facilitating the global exchange of goods for more than two decades.
The lesson: Technology is only useful if it solves a real-world problem.
Annual Revenues: $11.7 Billion
At the time of its founding, Netflix was set up to physically deliver DVD rentals to the homes of its users. When the digital revolution rendered the DVD rental industry useless almost overnight, Netflix faced collapse. However, unlike its rival Blockbuster, Netflix was able to reinvent itself as a subscription online streaming service, and has gone on to become one of the biggest names in media.
With over 125 million subscribers worldwide, Netflix has become a cultural phenomenon, producing its own films and series and becoming one of the world’s most important channels for bringing video content to the masses.
The lesson: Don’t fight the change, be the change.
Annual Revenues: None of your business
While certainly the smallest company on our list, plucky upstart AI scale-up Phrasee has fast become an important player in the quickly-growing global marketing technology field. Parlaying cutting-edge natural language generation and optimisation technology to produce marketing copy that outperforms marketing copy written by humans, Phrasee’s AI marketing tool has already been adopted by some of the world’s biggest brands, and the results have been impressive, to say the least.
Started in the United Kingdom in 2015, Phrasee has recently expanded into the United States, opening its first overseas office in San Francisco. With artificial intelligence having such a strong showing of late and becoming one of the digital marketing industry’s most important buzzwords, it’s a safe bet that we’ll be hearing a lot more from this martech scale-up in the months and years to come.
The lesson: Try Phrasee. It’s awesome.