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This new Amazon store really means business

The retail giant launches Amazon Business, posing a new challenge to chains such as Staples and promising hard-to-find goods ranging from antibodies to industrial deep fryers.

Amazon is now aiming its sights at the business crowd. Amazon

Amazon is looking to appeal directly to the workplace crowd with a new online store.

Launched Tuesday, Amazon Business will sell office supplies, industrial products, lab equipment, food service items and much more to small, medium and large businesses alike. It's also promising "hard-to-find items," such as traffic signs, industrial deep fryers, 55-gallon steel drums, dent pullers and even antibodies.

There's good reason for Amazon to make the move. Business-to-business e-commerce sales in the US are expected to top $1 trillion by 2020, according to a report this month from Forrester Research. Amazon, meanwhile, cited in its announcement Tuesday a study from Acquity Group, which found that 68 percent of business-to-business buyers are purchasing items online, up from 57 percent in 2013, and that 95 percent do research online prior to buying a product for their business.

The new venture will likely add to the pressure on office supplies giant Staples, which was already feeling heat from Amazon as well as from retailers such as Walmart, Target, Costco and Best Buy. Staples, which sells products both to businesses and to individual consumers, is currently working through a $6.3 billion merger with rival Office Depot that is expected to be finalized by the end of the year.

Amazon Business will replace Amazon Supply, an online marketplace the company has used since 2012 to sell items to industrial customers. But it will also go much further by branching out to more types of businesses. The company said it found that among its business customers, the top five have come from industrial manufacturing, technology, education, business services and health care. Over the past 12 months, these types of customers alone have bought billions of dollars worth of products.

The site itself mimics the usual Amazon experience but is strictly geared toward business purchases. Set up as a multiseller marketplace, Amazon Business will let buyers compare prices by viewing multiple offers from sellers on a single page. Certain items will carry "business-only prices," while select sellers will offer discounts based on the quantity ordered.

Businesses will be able to manage their purchasing by creating approval workflows, adding purchase order numbers, making tax-exempt purchases and paying for items using either a pay-in-full credit line or a revolving credit line.

Buyers will also receive free two-day shipping on orders of $49 or more for tens of millions of eligible products.

Companies that want to sell their products to other businesses can check out the Amazon Business seller's page to contact the company and learn more about the selling process.

"It's only the beginning for this new marketplace," Prentis Wilson, vice president of Amazon Business, said in a press release. "We will continue to build out features in areas like product support, payments, shipping and pricing."