Amazon Bows Financial Services Store

Amazon.com added financial services to its vast marketplace on Friday, with a virtual store sponsored by Fidelity Investments. The partnership puts Fidelity in front of Amazon's visitors--roughly 50 million a month, according to Nielsen//NetRatings--many of whom come to Amazon in search of financial titles, while Amazon moves one step closer to e-commerce omnipresence.

Amazon's financial services page is dominated by Fidelity financial advice columns, brand advertising, and services. The page also features boxed display ads from other related brands--plus links to Amazon's financial product categories, ranging from presentation supplies and office furniture to investing books and finance magazines. It also displays a rather ominous "Timely Tax Ticker," which counts down the days, hours, minutes, and seconds until April 17--the last day to postmark one's taxes.

Beyond generating new client leads, Fidelity is hoping its presence on Amazon will build brand awareness and reinforce its relationship with existing customers, according to Bob O'Neill, Fidelity's senior vice president of personal services.

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"We want to complement the experience of consumers when they come to Amazon for financial products and services," said O'Neill.

Per the year-long partnership, Amazon is also carrying display ads across its site, including its home page.

Amazon's products and services span 32 categories, from musical instruments to a wedding registry. Along with Fidelity, Amazon has premiere partnerships with brands like Wine.com, Weight Watchers, Office Depot, and Target.

Notably, Amazon has run into difficulties with some of its co-branding partners.

Earlier this month, the Superior Court of New Jersey ruled that Toys "R" Us could legally dissolve its long-standing relationship with Amazon--which, when established in 2000, provided that Amazon not sell the products of Toys "R" Us competitors. The judge ruled that Amazon broke the contract when it began doing just that several years ago.

Amazon's deal with Toys "R" Us was unique because the toy store agreed to give up its independent Web address in exchange for rights to sell through Amazon's site.

Like most of Amazon's present partners, Fidelity has not given up that right, nor is its relationship with Amazon in any sense exclusive, said O'Neill.

Amazon reported fourth-quarter net income of $199 million, or 47 cents per share--compared with $346.7 million, or 82 cents per share, in the period one year prior. Sales rose 17 percent to $2.98 billion from $2.54 billion a year earlier, which missed analysts' targets of $3.08 billion. Amazon attributed the poor results to higher shipping and technology costs.

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