By  on December 29, 2017

From groceries and gadgets to fashion, Amazon is all over the place.The e-commerce juggernaut marked its "biggest shopping day ever" at the start of the holidays on Cyber Monday, which briefly catapulted chief executive officer Jeff Bezos' net worth over the $100 billion mark.How much of that was born of Amazon Fashion and its holiday efforts isn't clear. What was obvious, however, was that the apparel group did its best to drum up sales, launching numerous promotions ahead of the shopping season. Days in advance, it slashed prices by 30 to 65 percent on a range of goods, from its own lines to others including Adidas Stan Smiths, Eberjey pajamas and footwear from Frye and Uggs.Those efforts, however, couldn't hold a candle to Amazon's electronics category. The company revealed that four of its gadgets — the Echo Dot smart speaker, the Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, the new Echo and the Fire 7 tablet — were the "top-selling products across all categories" on its site. The low-end Echo Dot topped the site's bestseller list worldwide.Perhaps it's not fair to compare Amazon Fashion and its devices, however. The tech company has been making gadgets since 2007, with the first Kindle e-reader, while the nascent apparel business is still taking shape.Not that this year didn't bring some noteworthy moves. The web giant courted big brands such as Nike, which has been piloting an online store on the site, and pursued retail deals with actress Drew Barrymore and basketball star Dwyane Wade. It fine-tuned its try-before-you-buy Prime Wardrobe service, pushed to expand its own private labels, and served up recommendations with its Echo Look camera and styling assistant. In the background, the company — which owns a patent on a shape-shifting mannequin — is integrating recent acquisition Body Labs and its virtual fitting technology.

If that seems like something of a hodgepodge, then welcome to Amazon's strategy. The company has always operated upside down from the status quo, and it's doing it again in fashion. To see where it's all going, look to Amazon's approach to technology, where its secret weapon — that massive marketplace — and its unusual methodology are hidden in plain sight.

Tech makers often start with devices, using them to drive attention to their platforms. But Amazon started with the platform, its retail marketplace, and took its time to build it out. It knew it wouldn't turn a profit for the first several years, but it was playing a long game. Eventually, it fished around for the right devices, digital content and new categories to feed back into its ecosystem.

The ensuing parade of e-readers, phones, tablets, TV devices and other gizmos garnered mixed results until the first Echo speaker arrived in 2015. The sleeper hit intrigued the market with its voice powers and exclusive, invitation-only debut.

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