TechCrunch reports that Amazon is introducing “a new paid membership program aimed at multi-user businesses in the U.S. and Germany. Called Business Prime Shipping, the program extends Prime’s free, two-day shipping benefits to all users with an Amazon Business account, allowing them to shop for office supplies and other company needs.”

Pricing is based on the number of users in a business that have access to the account - starting at $499 for small companies with up to 10 users, and going as high as $10,099 for those with over 100 users.

TechCrunch writes that this is seen as “a direct challenge to office supply stores, like Staples, Office Depot and others, as well as other big box retailers, like Walmart, and warehouse deals stores, like Costco.”

And Bloomberg writes that “business-to-business transactions -- a broad category that includes pens and paper for the office as well as equipment and parts used in factories -- have been slower to shift online than retail, but could be a bigger revenue opportunity in the long term, said Andy Hoar, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc. He estimates the U.S. market will reach $1.2 trillion by 2021, up from $889 billion this year.”


• Amazon this morning what it is calling Amazon Key, described as “a new service exclusively for Prime members that radically improves the convenience of receiving deliveries. Amazon Key enables in-home delivery and secure home access for guests and service appointments … Amazon Key allows customers to have their packages securely delivered inside their home without having to be there. Using the Amazon Key app, customers stay in control and can track their delivery with real-time notifications, watch the delivery happening live or review a video of the delivery after it is complete.

“This state-of-the-art technology doesn't simply replace a key with a digital passcode. Each time a delivery driver requests access to a customer's home, Amazon verifies that the correct driver is at the right address, at the intended time, through an encrypted authentication process. Once this process is successfully completed, Amazon Cloud Cam starts recording and the door is then unlocked. No access codes or keys are ever provided to delivery drivers. And, for added peace of mind, in-home delivery is backed by Amazon's Happiness Guarantee.”

Amazon Key will be available on November 8 in 37 US cities and surrounding areas, and the service will be available to Prime members at no extra cost, though it does require the purchase of an Amazon Key In-Home Kit, the price of which starts at $249.99.

KC's View: Regarding the Business Prime Shipping program … wasn’t it just recently that Staples was prevented from acquiring Office Depot by the feds because of concerns that the combination would simply upset the competitive balance?

What a crock.

As for the Key program … well, it really isn’t unexpected.

But I do think that Amazon has to be careful to maintain total control over the delivery experience. No outsourcing allowed. If you’re going to give people access to the home, there has to be a high level of control.