Amazon.com and the return of the e-wallet

Back to the e-future?

Back to the e-future?

A little-noticed detail of Amazon.com's recent deal with Target may revive an ecommerce feature once given up for dead: the online wallet.

Earlier this month, online retailer Amazon and mass-market retailer Target expanded their relationship, with Amazon taking control of Target's website. Under the new design, consumers who want to buy things at Target.com can set up a user account with Target, entering credit card data and shipping addresses. They also can use a previously established account created at Amazon.com.

That may seem like a small detail, but analysts who follow ecommerce said it could have large repercussions.

In allowing customers using the same account to shop at multiple stores, Amazon has in effect created an ecommerce wallet. It's something companies from Microsoft to America Online to Yahoo have tried to do - with little success so far.

But Amazon and technology providers are coming at the wallet game from two different points. Companies such as Microsoft are building the technology and hoping consumers will come. Amazon is counting on its huge customer base being attracted to its wallet feature, and it is using that popularity to pitch partnerships with key retailers.

"Wallets promoted as such have not caught on. People are just opposed to the concept of an online wallet, it just strikes them as wrong," said Kate Delhagen, analyst at Forrester Research. "But when you register for one-click shopping, you effectively create a wallet at their store."

For more background on this story see the e-wallet: How it works.

Margaret Kane writes for News.com

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