Many offices use Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) for everything from buying office supplies to ordering Keurig K-Cups, computers, and who knows what else. To do that, companies have had to use individual accounts, which did not accommodate the corporate workflow, approvals, and other processes many businesses require.
Now the retail giant is changing that by introducing Amazon Business, a new service designed to solve those problems.
What: Amazon Business allows for the creation of "multi-user business accounts," the company explained in a press release announcing the service today. It also offers "approval workflow, payment solutions, tax exemptions, dedicated customer support and much more."
The new offering includes some business-only pricing as well as free two-day shipping on orders over $49. It also has dedicated customer service, a selection of items only being offered to businesses -- including traffic signs, industrial deep fryers, and antibodies -- and the ability to integrate leading third-party procurement solutions.
So what: Amazon.com has good prices and a huge selection of merchandise. Allowing companies to order with multi-user accounts that allow for proper corporate order flow and approval represents a threat to every company that sells to corporations. This service could take business from obvious players like the soon-to-merge Staples and Office Depot, which do large volumes of sales direct to companies.
It will also have far-reaching effects across other companies that make corporate sales a priority. Since Amazon sells such a broad volume of products, it could conceivably takes business from companies that sell everything from computers to food products, furniture to cleaning supplies, and probably a whole lot more.
Now what: Entering a market is one thing, but getting companies to modify their existing behavior could be a challenge. Many office supply retailers -- the big ones mentioned above and some smaller chains -- have dedicated sales reps who call on corporate clients, sometimes even in person.
Amazon has built a logical system for business, but it now has to change entrenched behavior. The company has an advantage that hundreds of millions of people already are comfortable using it, and many of them use it for work without the business-specific tools.
With Amazon for Business, the company has laid the groundwork for a flood of corporate customers to bring their business to the retailer (or move it over from individual accounts). Whether just creating the tools will cause people to change long-standing relationships remains to be seen.
Daniel Kline owns shares of Apple. He buys things for his office on Amazon using his personal account all the time. The Motley Fool recommends Amazon.com, Apple, and Keurig Green Mountain. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com, Apple, and Staples. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.