How Amazon Created a Personalized Store for Every Customer | Josh Petersen & Matt Round

Invent like an Owner with Dave Schappell

16-06-2021 • 1 hr 3 mins

Today, in the Invent Like An Owner Podcast, Dave speaks with Josh Petersen and Matt Round. The conversation takes us back to Amazon’s early years, when the Personalization team was put together and built on features such as Similarities, Instant Recommendations, Cart Recommendations and more. The team strove to iteratively improve key features; over time, the Personalization and Automation worked toward Jeff Bezos’ vision of “a store for every customer”. They also talk about the effectiveness of small cross-functional teams, feature testing through Weblabs, MRT (Matt’s Recruiting Tool) - a tool still being used today, and much more.

For over 20 years at Amazon, Josh Peterson helped create highly visible and innovative technologies used by millions of customers. He was the Director for the Personalization team and then led different teams at Amazon including Prime Photos/Cloud Drive, AWS, and Bots/NLU. Matt Round is the former Director of Software Development, and later became the Managing Director responsible for establishing the Amazon Development Centre in Scotland (a wholly owned subsidiary of including full responsibility for team building, project selection and implementation oversight.

Episode Resources:

What to Listen For:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 02:01 Personalization feature examples
  • 05:17 How Personalization features were evaluated
  • 08:00 Item to item similarities versus collaborative filtering
  • 09:40 Personalization aims to build out a store for every customer
  • 12:17 Putting together a team focused on Personalization
  • 14:12 Tracking which features were generating which results
  • 17:12 How do Weblabs work?
  • 20:17 Big wins for the Personalization features
  • 24:22 How did Personalization work for new customers?
  • 28:53 Impact on Editorial team when Personalization became more automated
  • 32:30 Amazon’s customer reviews
  • 34:14 Emergence of advertising on Amazon
  • 39:29 Two Pizza Team model: small cross-functional teams with a narrow focus
  • 42:57 Personalized merchandising and Automated merchandising
  • 47:27 Matt’s Recruiting Tool (MRT): a simple tool to manage the interview process
  • 50:24 The Amabot Story
  • 54:46 Iquitos: the first successful microservice at Amazon
  • 59:10 Pressure from the product side produced innovation on the technical side
  • 01:00:14 By testing a lot of things, you learn about things you don’t know.
  • 01:02:56 Listening to data is very important