Today Amazon is announcing the launch of Amazon Business, a new marketplace strictly for businesses featuring hundreds of millions of products, bulk discounts, and free two-day shipping on orders worth more than $49.
The new site will replace AmazonSupply, Amazon’s current marketplace for industrial products and office supplies. Starting today, the company will begin transitioning businesses off the old site and onto Amazon Business.
AmazonSupply first launched in April 2012 with 500,000 products aimed at industrial contractors, sanitation workers, lab scientists, auto repairmen, and plumbers, among other labor-intensive jobs. Today, the site boasts 2.25 million products. Though AmazonSupply is geared towards business and contractors, anyone can order products on the site.
In order to get access to Amazon Business, buyers will have to register their companies and undergo a vetting process. Operating a business-only marketplace allows Amazon to work with sellers that only vend to businesses, opening up a wide array of products. The move also allows Amazon to expand the types of businesses its able to cater to. On Amazon Business, approved buyers have access to hundreds of millions of products — everything from chairs and power tools to office artwork. Plus, the platform also gives businesses access to bulk deals and discounts that general consumers can’t get. True to Amazon style, buyers are also able to compare product prices in order to get the best deal.
“Now, one of the most important things we hear is the fact that [businesses] can go to one product page and see different offers. Multiple suppliers are competing in real time for their business,” said Prentis Wilson, VP of Amazon Business.
Business account holders are vetted based on their tax ID and other relevant information, but once approved, accounts are free. Some had indicated that Amazon might be looking to introduce an Amazon Prime account for businesses, which appears to be correct. What’s still unclear is whether Amazon will eventually charge businesses for membership. At the moment, these accounts are free, but that doesn’t bar the company from requiring payment down the road.
Even if it does just offer the free account, getting into wholesale sales could prove to be a big opportunity for Amazon. In 2013, e-commerce wholesale sales generated $1.96 trillion, according the U.S. Census Bureau. Comparatively, in 2014, e-commerce retail sales only garnered an estimated $304.9 billion.
With the new Amazon Business account, buyers can create multiple user accounts, meaning no one person is responsible for doing all the supply ordering. It also means that if a business has multiple locations, they can create user accounts for each. Administrative account holders can also assign spending limits on individual accounts.
In addition to discounts and deals, Amazon Business also tailors to business needs in other ways. For example, when a business owner logs onto the site, they’ll see products relevant to their industry on the homepage. They’ll also be served appropriate advertising, rather than ads for Kindle or Mother’s Day presents. The site will also accommodate tax exemptions. For instance, in some states, if you’re a school or a nonprofit organization, you don’t have to pay taxes on business-related expenses. And, like on AmazonSupply, business account holders will have access to instructional product videos from manufacturers.
Amazon is also playing with a feature called Live Experts, a tool that will start showing up later this week. Live Experts is a chat function that lets buyers consult representatives of a product company about a tool or product model. Considering the high level of expense associated with some of these professional tools, Live Experts stands to give businesses more assurance about buying online. According to Wilson, Amazon is also considering adding a call feature in addition to chat to connect buyers with product experts to help them purchase the right item.
Prior to today’s launch, Amazon had been testing Amazon Business through a gateway called Amazon for Business. That portal will be folded into Amazon Business.
As for AmazonSupply, the site will start redirecting to Amazon Business on May 13, 2015. However, for consumers who have been using the site for purchasing professional-level products, the items will now be available on the flagship Amazon.com.