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Amazon Extends Affiliate Web Services to UK

E-tail giant Amazon.com has expanded its Web services program to the United Kingdom, giving its affiliates the chance to sell Amazon.com merchandise directly from their sites.

The program, which began in the United States in July, allows merchants to download a software development kit that lets sites display Amazon.co.uk items to its visitors. For example, if a visitor searches the site, the Web services program can serve up information about related Amazon items. Through XML (Extensible Markup Language) or SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol) , the data is transported to the affiliate's page and the visitor never has to leave the site to make a purchase. Amazon will continue to handle ordering and processing.

With the new program, which is free, Amazon hopes it can further expand its already burgeoning affiliate network. The company boasts 900,000 affiliates. Existing affiliates still need to apply to be part of the Web services program.

The affiliates program gives sites a cut of up to 15 percent for each sale they refer to Amazon. It has been popular particularly with smaller sites, since it is free to join and provides an easy way to squeeze revenue out of their user bases.

The far-reaching affiliate network allows Amazon a low-cost way to draw customers. A month ago, Amazon announced that it would not advertise on TV or in general print publications this year. The move, which could save the company more than $50 million, was made possible by the strong brand identity Amazon has thanks to its status as an e-tail pioneer, as well as the many tentacles of its affiliate program. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said the company would apply the savings to continuing its free-shipping policies.

In addition to providing basic product information, the Web services will display product reviews and sales rankings. Previously, affiliates only provided a link to the Amazon page containing a product.

One popular Amazon feature not included: one-click ordering. Instead, affiliate site visitors will need to use the Amazon shopping cart.