If Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) wants to be the online equivalent of a mall, it probably doesn't hurt for it to offer some financial services for customers interested in more than impulse purchases. That possibility has come to pass, now that Amazon's deal with Fidelity Investments will allow the mutual fund provider to gain prime real estate on Amazon's site.

There are many firsts associated with this deal. Fidelity Investments is the first such vendor to be featured prominently in Amazon's new Financial Services store, where Fidelity offers mutual fund and college savings products. The company happens to be the No. 1 mutual fund provider, and it's easy to see why this agreement works out well for it; Fidelity will gain exposure to Amazon's 55 million customers. Meanwhile, Fidelity already advertises on the sites of other Internet giants, like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO).

Although this deal may help fill what might be considered a hole in Amazon's shopping experience, it's hard to imagine how much it will benefit the online retailer. (Of course, financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.) Rounding out the types of products and services users can shop for on Amazon certainly can't hurt, considering that retailers like Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) provide some financial services to their customers. The availability of such services creates greater shopper convenience.

Fidelity seems to be the real beneficiary of this deal, as it fends off competition from other mutual fund providers. With more people sounding the alarm over future social security benefits -- indeed, it's arguable that many people are gearing up for a gruesome retirement -- it's also a good time to try to lure younger individuals to start long-term savings plans. Last but not least, Fidelity surely hopes to make hay while the sun shines -- the deal apparently isn't exclusive, although Fidelity will be noted as the "premier sponsor" through 2007. Welcome to the online mall.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.