Amazon.com Inc. is testing a new paid advertising program that will drive shoppers away from products on its own Web site.
On some Amazon product detail pages, competing or complementary items and their prices now appear in a list of text-link ads under headings such as "Available at these other websites."
When shoppers click, Amazon makes money and the advertiser's site opens in a new window.
Razor-thin retail margins have prompted Amazon to look beyond directly selling and shipping merchandise to customers. To stay profitable despite money-losing promotions like its unlimited free shipping program, the company opened Amazon.com to other merchants, letting them peddle their wares alongside its own and use its fulfillment system, for a more attractive cut than the margin Amazon ultimately clears on sales of its own goods.
The company has also increased sales of movie and music downloads, digital items that don't take up shelf space or incur shipping costs when they're purchased.
Amazon has sold sponsored links based on keywords and general product categories for some time, which also link to non-Amazon sites. But advertising competitors' prices and linking directly to the products is a new trick — one that pits Amazon against search sites like Google, which aggregate prices from all over the Web.