What type of business is Amazon? At first glance, Amazon’s business structure is easily dubbed “e-commerce.” And, in fact, that’s how company representatives and others generally classify Amazon and its namesake website. But over the years the company has expanded into services that go beyond the boundaries of strict e-commerce. Some even go as far as saying that Amazon isn’t a commerce company at all, as Amazon grows and expands in the ever-changing global marketplace.
What type of business is Amazon?
Amazon spent the last 25 years building Amazon.com. It now serves over 300 million active customers a wide selection of goods at competitive prices. You may be one of them.
But different customers have different needs.
Amazon has long known that businesses and organizations were shopping for office supplies and other goods in bulk on its store. To better serve them, the company launched Amazon Business in 2015.
“Everything we do at Amazon starts with the customer, and we kept asking ourselves, ‘How can we better serve those business customers?’” said 20-year Amazon veteran Alexandre Gagnon, vice president of Worldwide Amazon Business. “The procurement space is ready for innovation. We have leveraged the size, expertise, technology, and infrastructure we have built at Amazon, and adapted it for businesses and organizations of all sizes.”
Amazon Business has since become one of the fastest-growing ventures in Amazon’s history. It reached $35 billion in annualized sales in 2023.
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“I’ve been excited about Amazon Business since the day it launched,” said Doug Herrington, CEO of Amazon Worldwide Stores. “The Amazon Business team is committed to long-term success of their business and its customers. Day in and day out, we dig into the specific purchasing needs of businesses and organizations and come up with innovative ways to deliver great prices, extensive selection, and consistent, reliable convenience. Businesses and organizations need different tools and features for their purchasing, and Amazon Business has built those tools. But we know that’s not enough, and we’ll keep iterating to make the customer experience even better.”
More than 6 million customers are now buying on Amazon Business. This includes small and medium-sized companies like the family-owned Red River Brewing Company in New Mexico, as well as large companies and institutions. Ninety-six Fortune 100 companies use Amazon Business, including Intel and Citi, as well as organizations like Johns Hopkins University, Seattle Children’s Hospital, and the United Service Organizations, and U.S. governmental entities, including the state of Utah and the U.S. Air Force.
“Amazon Business is constantly innovating on behalf of its customers—working on solutions and integrations that make procurement more efficient, reducing overhead and manual processes,” Gagnon said. “Amazon Business supports integrations with Coupa and over 100 other procurement, payments, and ERP systems. We also support purchasing directly on Amazon.com for organizations that do not rely on an e-procurement system.”
Despite the progress and growth of Amazon Business, the energy inside makes it feel like a startup with a lot of room to expand further. Amazon Business director Todd Heimes said there are millions of small businesses around the world, and they spend trillions every year on supplies and procurement.
“We are just getting started,” Heimes said.
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about Amazon Business.
Who can open an Amazon Business account?
Businesses and organizations of all sizes—a local hair salon, global corporations, schools, non-profits, hospitals, and government agencies—can open an Amazon Business account. The account is free, and there’s no spending minimum.
How does Amazon Business work?
Amazon Business gives organizations of all sizes the ability to buy from a large selection of hundreds of millions of items directly from the Amazon Business store, which has the same easy-to-use and intuitive interface as Amazon.com.
“One of the best things we have as a tailwind for Amazon Business is all of the work we’ve done for the last 25 years for consumers on Amazon,” Heimes said. “We’ve got a catalog with a wide selection, a world-class fulfillment capability, and a great customer experience that you’re used to. It’s easy to use with no training necessary. The search experience, the reviews, the shopping cart, and other popular features are all the same, and on top of that we’ve built business-specific features that allow companies of all sizes to integrate their procurement policies into the buying process.”
What does Amazon Business offer beyond vast selection, low prices, and convenience?
“We are so much more than a B2B store or a procurement organization,” said Aster Angagaw, vice president and head of commercial, public, and strategic sector at Amazon Business. “Amazon Business is designed to be flexible and can support customers of all shapes and sizes. We continuously develop scalable solutions by customer size and industry vertical. We work with our customers to solve their biggest procurement challenges by giving them incredible technology such as Amazon Business analytics and Guided Buying, available with eligible Business Prime memberships.”
“Amazon Business lets our customers use a set of policies or rules to ensure that certain types of products they buy meet those requirements,” Heimes said. “So, you could say, ‘I want to buy local,’ ‘I want to buy products with sustainability certifications,’ ‘I want to buy from veteran-owned or diverse suppliers.’”
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Angagaw said that business owners and procurement staff are using Amazon Business for its end-to-end solution which provides tools and analytics that give them control, visibility, and insight into purchasing, supply chain, and other activities.
“It’s about making sure that Amazon Business gives flexibility to customers so that they focus their time on what matters most to them. This means an organization can ensure they are spending the money where they want to spend it in the way they want to spend it, and that they have control over who spends that money within their organization,” she said. “Because of our end-to-end solution capability, our customer-facing teams work with the largest enterprises to understand their unique business procurement needs and build tailored solutions that best fit their business, requirements, and unique purchasing criteria.”
“Smart business buying is really the culmination of machine learning and artificial intelligence we are bringing to bear on the procurement space to help our customers buy and supply their needs in a smart way, to free them up to do what they really want to do, which is run their business,” Heimes said.
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