Case Detail

Case Summary

Reinventing E-Commerce: Amazon's Bet on Unmanned Vehicle Delivery

Case Number: 5-315-501, Year Published: 2015

HBS Number: KEL911

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Authors: Rafique Jiwani

Key Concepts

E-Commerce, Growth Strategy, Information Technology, Innovation, Logistics, Operations Management, Productivity, Risk Management, Service Strategy, Technology Management


In a December 1, 2013, interview on American television program 60 Minutes, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced that Amazon would soon change the future of online shopping by enabling customers to receive items within thirty minutes of ordering. This delivery service, Bezos said, would be powered by unmanned autonomous drones and could be offered as soon as 2015. The market reaction was instantaneous and positive.

Still, Amazon needed some answers before it could launch autonomous delivery services: Were customers ready to embrace and pay for this type of delivery service? Would regulators allow it? Should Amazon make or buy its drones? Would it be too risky for Amazon to wait to launch this service? If it decided to go ahead, how should it launch, and to whom?

Spanish translation available.

Learning Objectives

After reading and analyzing the case, students will be able to:

  • Evaluate the disruptive impact of autonomous vehicles on retailing, transportation, and other delivery-dependent businesses
  • Evaluate and recognize the savings created by automation and the challenge to employment that it may cause
  • Identify opportunities to repurpose operational data from the autonomous vehicles to develop deeper insights into customer behaviors and market norms

Number of Pages: 23

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Strategy

Teaching Note Available: Yes

Geographic: United States

Industry: Online Retail

Organization Name: Amazon

Organization Size: Large

Decision Maker Position: CEO

Decision Maker Gender: Male

Year of Case: 2014