Amazon's huge plan to win over business customers

RTR2RYC0Shannon Stapleton / ReutersJeff Bezos speaks at a press conference in New York in 2011.

Amazon is launching a new marketplace for business owners that will provide a one-stop shop for everything a company needs, from office artwork and snacks to wholesale deep fryers and traffic signs.

Amazon Business is an expansion of what was once Amazon Supply, the wholesale site it launched in 2012. At it’s peak, Supply had about 2.2 million products, with millions of business customers, spending billions of dollars. Amazon Business will be much bigger, boasting hundreds of millions of products — and the company expects sales to multiply accordingly. Amazon Business launches today, but the company won’t officially shut down Supply until May 13.

Business owners will need to register to use the site — which includes letting Amazon vet that they’re a real company — but sign-up will be free and feature free two-day shipping on orders of $US50 or more, products not available to retail consumers, products with special business discounts, and a whole suite of tools, like a tax exemption program, purchasing approval, and the ability to use corporate credit lines to pay.

The company insists Amazon Business is also great for sellers, who can target new customers and offer special pricing or quantity discounts. They will also be able to list whether they’re a “small business” or women-, minority-, or veteran-owned. Wholesale suppliers who previously tried to run their own e-commerce shops will now be able to find a huge customer base without having to manage their site.

The company also plans to roll out a “Live Expert” program, which will make it easy for manufacturers to connect with potential buyers to answer any questions about their products.

In typical Amazon fashion, the company sees this launch as “Day One,” and plans to use early feedback to continually refine the service, Prentis Wilson, VP of Amazon Business, told Business Insider.

Overall, the launch represents a huge opportunity for Amazon. The business-to-business market is bigger than the business-to-consumer market, according to Internet Retailer, which estimated that B2B would generate annual sales of $US1 trillion in 2014, while B2C would only pull in $US263.3 million. Wholesalers made $US7.2 trillion in revenue in 2012, according to recent Census data. Amazon is opening itself up to take a bigger slice of that pie.

Amazon’s familiar consumer e-commerce experience has become a “reference point” that businesses buyers now look to, said Christine Dover, digital commerce researcher at IDC. “Buyers have said, ‘Why can’t it be as easy to buy something through my business procurement system as it is to buy on Amazon?’ They have been asking for this from other vendors for a long time. And now Amazon has stepped up to provide it.”

With Amazon Web Services trying to entice the enterprise with its cloud computing offerings and Amazon Business now filling in any e-commerce gaps, the company is stepping up its efforts to attract business customers.

Here’s a look at Amazon Business:

Amazon Business Home Page (1)Amazon BusinessHere’s a look at the Amazon Business homepage

TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden first reported rumblings about the program Monday afternoon.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

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