Amazon lures business buyers with launch of Amazon Business

The marketplace will offer features such as bulk pricing, free two-day shipping on orders worth more than $49, and access to products not available to typical retail consumers.

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Amazon has made an official play for the booming B2B online sales market.

The ecommerce giant on Tuesday announced the launch of Amazon Business, a marketplace that tailors Amazon's shopping and shipping methods specifically to business users -- allowing Amazon to tap into the trillions of dollars businesses will spend online over the next five years.

Unlike Amazon Prime, Amazon Business will be free to verified business customers, offering features such as bulk pricing, free two-day shipping on orders worth more than $49, and access to products not available to typical retail consumers.

It will feature a range of products -- anything from IT equipment to paper napkins -- in addition to business-specific perks such as approval workflow, live customer support, corporate credit payment lines and a tax exemption program.

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The effort is not Amazon's first push to capture business customers. The new marketplace is in a way an extension of the company's wholesale site Amazon Supply, except it will be much bigger, with hundreds of millions of products immediately ready for purchase.

Which brings up another point: In addition to targeting business buyers, Amazon is also marketing the platform to the bevy of sellers already operating in the Amazon ecosystem.

Amazon says sellers will not only gain access to a huge new customer base, but they will also have the ability to target certain businesses with special pricing and discounts based on the data businesses disclose upon signup.

Amazon Business VP Prentis Wilson said Amazon would continue to add new features to the platform as it garners feedback from the first wave of users.

"We're consistently listening to feedback from customers so we can innovate, deliver more value and set a new standard for B2B e-commerce with Amazon Business," Wilson said in a statement. "We think this is ... a great opportunity for manufacturers and sellers to reach registered business customers."

Combined with the enterprise cloud offerings from Amazon Web Services, Amazon Business certainly rounds out Amazon's efforts to dominate in both general ecommerce and B2B services. And given the sheer size of the B2B sales market, there's not much risk to Amazon, as only a fraction of the sales pie would make the venture profitable.

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