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3 burning questions as Amazon Buy with Prime enters wide release

The feature, which embeds Prime checkout and logistics with DTC brands, is set to be available for all US merchants on Jan. 31.

3 burning questions as Amazon Buy with Prime enters wide release

Buy with Prime is moving to wide release. (Photo via Amazon)

Amazon’s much-discussed new program for direct-to-consumer brands will no longer be invite-only later this month.

Amazon on Tuesday announced that it will launch Buy with Prime, which embeds Prime services on direct-to-consumer ecommerce stores, into wide release for all US merchants on Jan. 31. An integration with BigCommerce will help roll it out.

In April 2021, Amazon made an ecommerce splash as only it can when it rolled out the new service. Buy With Prime allows brands and retailers to embed Amazon Prime checkout on their off-Amazon stores, and offer Prime benefits like free shipping and returns along with it.

With Tuesday’s announcement, Amazon shared a few updates that will be added with general release. Amazon said Buy With Prime will include a new tool that offers the ability to display ratings and reviews from Amazon on a DTC site. This will launch alongside marketing capabilities that include advertising for products on Amazon’s marketplace, and a badge that can be displayed on DTC stores. Amazon also claimed that the service increased shopper conversion.

“We’ve been working closely with merchants since the launch of Buy with Prime and have been thrilled to hear the results it’s helped drive for them so far,” said Peter Larsen, Amazon vice president of Buy with Prime, in a statement. “We’ll continue innovating and investing in new features, such as Reviews from Amazon, to help merchants of all sizes succeed and give Prime members the shopping benefits they love, whether it’s on Amazon or beyond.”

On initial release, many analysts were in agreement about Buy with Prime: This could be a game-changer. It means the Amazon brand is now extending beyond the #1 ecommerce marketplace's own site, and the Amazon's vast logistics network is available to many more companies that don't sell directly on Amazon. With a simple button, Amazon can extend its reach through the bits of ecommerce, and add to its client base of merchants on the atoms side.

If you felt like Amazon was already everywhere, this could make it even more ubiquitous.

Amazon’s track record in ecommerce carries with it the expectation that it can bend the internet to its will, and decide to turn on new paradigm-shifting features whenever it chooses. But success isn't guaranteed for Buy With Prime, even though it's Amazon. The launch cycle indicates that this is a new program, and it's coming during a tougher time for brands that sell directly through their own sites, whether because of the economic pullback or iOS changes that made advertising more challenging.

So, this year we'll be looking for signs to prove its success. Here are a few burning questions to keep in mind as the launch gets closer:

Will brands want to invite Amazon in?

DTC brands have long proudly stood apart from Amazon, building their own stores and in many cases communities. While Amazon had the crowded mall, DTC had the intentionally-placed and lovingly designed boutiques. This offered DTC brands not just independence, but control over how they executed ecommerce. Amazon is offering to lend its brand in exchange for a presence in the store, and even has additional advertising offerings and a badge to display. It is also now adding reviews, making the experience even more Amazon-like. But will brands want that? Will they fear that more Amazon will enter their store after this launch? Of course, another question is: Will they be able to refuse it?

What will Amazon do with the data?

In a related point, Amazon's checkout will give it a way to access the data of customers who buy using its Prime feature. How will it use that information, and, will it share that valuable info for marketing with brands? The answers could be make-or-break for many brands.

In an FAQ, Amazon said that it shares Buy With Prime data with brands, and collects data about how shoppers use the program.

"We do not collect information unrelated to Buy with Prime, such as non-Prime order information on your site," the company writes.

How will Shopify respond?

As we wrote back at launch, this feature looks like a direct bid by Amazon to move in with the entrepreneurial brands that are tried-and-true Shopify users. It's especially glaring at a time when Shopify is building out its own fulfillment network following last year’s $1.2 billion acquisition of Deliverr, and offering the "Shop Promise" badge to brands that use its services. Last year, Shopify already slid in a code-level warning to brands installing Buy with Prime about the potential for fraud and stolen data. With Amazon's wider launch, will it mount a more overt defense?

To be fair, it's still to be determined whether the companies will cooperate around this feature. On its third quarter earnings call, Shopify President Harley Finkelstein said the companies have been in communication about the implementation of Buy with Prime on Shopify, saying that Shopify wants to do it "the right way."

"What's important for merchants is they want to be able to manage their entire business from one centralized place," Finkelstein said. "They want all the information they need to make really, really good decisions. But at a high level, at a macro level, when great companies, or any company for that matter, makes infrastructure available to small businesses and does so in a way that levels the playing fields further for small businesses, that is a very, very good thing."

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