Like it or not, Amazon is expanding Prime to cover more of the web. The company says it's making Buy with Prime "widely available" to eligible third-party sites in the US on January 31st. More shops can offer free shipping, a streamlined checkout and simplified returns to Prime members. Before now, stores had to already be using Amazon's fulfillment system and receive an invitation.
The company is also introducing an option that lets Buy with Prime partners feature Amazon customer ratings and reviews on their store pages. A site won't have to hope that someone leaves a glowing review on its own storefron. If someone shopping at Amazon likes a product, it'll be visible on the third-party shop.
The theoretical advantages are clear. You get products with less hassle, while stores are more likely to turn visitors into paying customers. Amazon, meanwhile, is hoping to boost interest in Prime subscriptions and play an important role at other merchants.
The catch, of course, is that you have to pay Amazon to reap the benefits — and not everyone may be thrilled by the prospect. Amazon is already facing government scrutiny over the treatment of third-party sellers on its marketplace, including accusations it uses their sales data to develop rival products. Buy with Prime extends Amazon's influence to yet more sellers, and could invite more attention from regulators as a result.