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The New York Times: The Big Idea: Can Amazon Be Stopped?

Information Systems, to discuss the short- and long-term impacts of the labor shortage on Amazon, as well as the ongoing debate about Amazon’s use of vendor data.

Marshall Van Alstyne

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December 6, 2021

As most consumers know, there are few product categories or companies not impacted by the ongoing supply chain and labor shortage issues. One clear winner through these challenges has been Amazon. While they make it look easy, it takes an army of global workers to fulfill the onslaught of daily orders. In fact, Amazon’s workforce is up 50 percent from just a year ago. But as the world heads into the busiest shopping season of the year, Amazon is beginning to feel a bit of the pain of the high turnover rates many companies have seen during the past 12-months.

The New York Times spoke with Marshall Van Alstyne, Questrom Professor of Management in Information Systems, to discuss the short- and long-term impacts of the labor shortage on Amazon.

“If they can succeed in automating more low-level labor tasks, they will be less dependent on human labor”

Marshall Van Alstyne

Marshall also spoke to the ongoing debate about Amazon’s access to vendor data and product information. Amazon has used this information to produce their own versions of products and sell them at a much lower price. Vendors continue to push for greater regulation to prevent companies such as Amazon from using such information to their advantage.

Marshall Van Alstyne is a Questrom Professor of Management in Information Systems at Boston University Questrom School of Business and is one of the leading experts in network business models. He conducts research on information economics, covering such topics as communications markets, the economics of networks, intellectual property, social effects of technology, and productivity effects of information. As co-developer of the concept of “two-sided networks” he has been a major contributor to the theory of network effects, a set of ideas now taught worldwide. His co-authored article on the subject is a Harvard Business Review top 50 of all time. Awards include two patents, National Science Foundation IOC, SGER, SBIR, iCorp and Career Awards, and eight best paper awards. Articles or commentary have appeared in Science, Nature, Management Science, Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.