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Amazon launches ‘Business Prime,’ adds video push

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The Amazon logo in Santa Monica, Calif., in 2012.

Amazon.com Inc. launched a Prime membership service for businesses, looking to replicate in the workplace the quick delivery of online orders that made it a go-to shopping destination for households.

Business Prime Shipping, available in the U.S. and Germany, offers free two-day delivery to companies paying $499 to $10,999 a year depending on their size, Amazon said. The subscription program is looking to win business from office supply stores such as Staples Inc. and Office Depot Inc.

Business-to-business transactions 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.

“I don’t see the same ceiling in business-to-business sales as I do in retail,” Hoar said. “In retail, people want to go to the store to see and touch things. For business sales, people don’t want to have to go to the store.”

AMAZON ALSO wants to prevent holiday shoppers from straying to Google’s YouTube and Facebook Inc.’s social-media sites in search of product videos, so the e-commerce giant is working with merchants to match the effort on its website.

Pet supplies, baby products, housewares and electronics are the focus of the new push for promotional and instructional videos. Amazon this year began inviting some of its 2 million merchant partners to join a test program in which the online retailer coordinates these short product videos. The plan is to post many of them to the site by mid-December, when the holiday shopping season is in full swing, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg.

“You can move hearts and minds with video in ways you just can’t with text and standard display,” said Jason Kint, chief executive officer of Digital Content Next, a trade association formerly called the Online Publishers Association.

Amazon relies mostly on written descriptions of products, photos and reviews from shoppers to boost customers’ confidence in its wares. But the site largely lacks videos similar to television commercials or consumer reviews and how-to’s posted on YouTube and social media platforms. Amazon is offering merchants a discounted cost for 30-second video ads to encourage participation in the feature added to its Enhanced Brand Content program, the documents show.

The test is part of a broader effort to get more promotional videos on the site. Bose Corp. is one of the prominent brands that now has videos on Amazon, through a “premium” page program that costs $500,000, Advertising Age reported last week.

The Enhanced Brand Content video pilot program seeks content from smaller merchants in a wider range of categories that lack big marketing budgets. Some videos posted through the program include a demonstration of Coffee Gator’s French press coffee maker and a “how to wash your face” video posted beneath a facial cleanser.

The effort is targeted at the approaching holiday season, Amazon’s busiest time of year. Online sales are expected to increase by as much as 21 percent to $114 billion this season, according to estimates by Deloitte.

“Video is the latest feature addition to Enhanced Brand Content and we look forward to rolling it out further so more small businesses can create engaging, helpful content for Amazon customers,” Amazon said in an emailed statement.

Product videos are becoming an important feature for consumers before they make purchase decisions. More than 1 in 3 millennials, those in their 20s and 30s, find video demonstrations of products to be “very important” when shopping, according to a survey by Astound Commerce.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google has tried to turn YouTube into a prime destination for these marketing dollars. Two years ago, the search giant introduced a new feature that lets advertisers run customized ads for consumer products within relevant YouTube videos.

Amazon’s push with merchants comes as it works to build an advertising business to challenge Google and Facebook, which dominate the $83 billion online ad industry. The e-commerce giant is recognizing the value of its product search engine as an advertising platform because so many shoppers go to the site to find items and research purchases. Videos are increasingly part of that research, said Jonathan Bowen, owner of JLB Media Productions in Los Angeles, which shoots product videos for businesses.

“With electronics or a kitchen gadget, people want to see a video of what it actually does,” Bowen said. “Everyone knows what a spatula is, but for some of these products, pictures alone don’t do them justice.”

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