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Tech Industry

Amazon tests mail-order catalog listings

The online retailer is testing a feature that would allow mail-order catalog companies to display their products on the site.

Amazon.com is testing a feature that would allow mail-order catalog companies to display their products on the e-tailer's site.

The service, which Amazon began testing last week, allows catalog companies to post electronic versions of their print catalogs on Amazon, said Carrie Peters, a company spokeswoman.

Customers can peruse the catalogs at Amazon. But to order goods, they must call the catalogs' phone numbers, which Amazon is posting. Featured catalogs include home furnishings retailer French Country Living and jewelry sellers Cartier and Tiffany & Co.

Viewing the catalogs is free, and Amazon isn't charging catalog companies to display their wares while the feature is in test mode, Peters said. She declined to say whether Amazon plans to eventually charge the companies.

Amazon has made big money in the past by charging retailers for the opportunity to market to its 29 million customers. Companies such as Drugstore.com and the now-defunct Living.com at one time paid to advertise on Amazon. These advertising deals offer profit margins that are often higher than the company sees from selling its own merchandise, as the costs to Amazon are relatively small.

For more than a year, Amazon has been mining its own e-commerce operations for ways to offer technology and services to other retailers. In the process, the Seattle-based superstore has shown a greater willingness to allow third-party retailers to sell goods on its site.

The company, along with such competitors as eBay and Yahoo, is in a race to become the premier shopping destination. All three have expanded the number of products and services they offer.

Amazon opened a host of new stores on its site, including travel, luxury and used goods.

With the new catalog service, Amazon has divided the catalogs into eight categories: Arts & Hobbies, Pet Toys, Industrial Supplies, Medial Supplies, Science Supplies, Lifestyle, Car Parts, and Home Furnishings.