Fulfillment costs as a percentage of net sales may vary due to several factors, such as payment processing and related transaction costs,
our level of productivity and accuracy, changes in volume, size, and weight of units received and fulfilled, timing of fulfillment capacity expansion, the extent we utilize fulfillment services provided by third parties, mix of products and services
sold, and our ability to affect customer service contacts per unit by implementing improvements in our operations and enhancements to our customer self-service features. Additionally, because payment processing and fulfillment costs associated with
seller transactions are based on the gross purchase price of underlying transactions, and payment processing and related transaction and fulfillment costs are higher as a percentage of sales versus our retail sales, sales by our sellers have higher
fulfillment costs as a percent of net sales.
The increase in fulfillment costs in absolute dollars in 2012, 2011, and 2010,
compared to the comparable prior year periods, is primarily due to variable costs corresponding with increased physical and digital product and services sales volume, inventory levels, and sales mix; costs from expanding fulfillment capacity; and
payment processing and related transaction costs.
We seek to expand our fulfillment capacity to accommodate greater selection
and in-stock inventory levels and meet anticipated shipment volumes from sales of our own products as well as sales by third parties for which we provide the fulfillment services. We evaluate our facility requirements as necessary.
We direct customers to our websites primarily through a number of targeted online marketing channels, such as our Associates program, sponsored search, portal advertising, email marketing campaigns, and
other initiatives. Our marketing expenses are largely variable, based on growth in sales and changes in rates. To the extent there is increased or decreased competition for these traffic sources, or to the extent our mix of these channels shifts, we
would expect to see a corresponding change in our marketing expense.
The increase in marketing costs in absolute dollars in
2012, 2011, and 2010, compared to the comparable prior year periods, is primarily due to increased spending on online marketing channels, such as sponsored search programs and our Associates program, payroll and related expenses, and television
While costs associated with Amazon Prime memberships and other shipping offers are not included in marketing
expense, we view these offers as effective worldwide marketing tools, and intend to continue offering them indefinitely.
Technology and Content
We seek to efficiently invest in several areas of technology and content such as technology infrastructure, including AWS, digital initiatives, and expansion of new and existing physical and digital
product categories and offerings, so we may continue to enhance the customer experience and improve our process efficiency. We expect spending in technology and content to increase over time as we continue to add employees and technology
The increase in technology and content costs in absolute dollars in 2012, 2011, and 2010 compared to the
comparable prior year periods is primarily due to increases in payroll and related expenses, including those associated with our digital initiatives, and increased spending on technology infrastructure, including AWS. We expect these trends to
continue over time as we invest in these areas by increasing payroll and related expenses and adding technology infrastructure.
For 2012, 2011, and 2010, we capitalized $454 million (including $74 million of stock-based compensation), $307 million (including $51
million of stock-based compensation), and $213 million (including