Today the Amazon Web Services team announced their new Amazon Fulfillment Web Service (Amazon FWS). As Amazon's Jeff Barr explains in Our Most Fulfilling Web Service Yet this API "allows merchants to tap in to Amazon’s network of fulfillment centers and our expertise in logistics. Merchants can store their own products to our fulfillment centers and then, using a simple Web Service interface, fulfill orders for the products. That’s right – make a web service call, ship a product to a customer!" Our new Amazon Fulfillment API profile has an overview and more technical details.
Overall the service has two complementary sets of APIs: Inbound and Outbound:
The Inbound service gives merchants the ability to create and send shipments to an Amazon fulfillment center (FC). The getInboundShipmentPreview Function is used to locate one or more Amazon FCs to receive a particular product. The service may choose to send products to a variety of FCs in order to balance supplies across the entire network. Next, the putInboundShipment function is used to inform Amazon that the merchant will be shipping the product to the indicated FCs. Once the products have been shipped, the setInboundShipmentStatus function is used to inform Amazon that the product is actually on its way.
The Outbound service gives merchants the ability to ship products from Amazon FCs to their customers. This service revolves around the concept of a fulfillment order. The order contains a destination address, a shipping speed, and a list of item/quantity pairs to be shipped. The createFulfillmentOrder function is used to initiate the shipping process. There are also functions for listing all orders, cancelling orders, and getting the status of an order.
The APIs themselves are SOAP based. In order to use them you'll need a merchant account with Amazon because only merchants can list an item and you need an item to sell in order to have Amazon fulfill it.
With 15 different APIs available, Amazon continues to expose both more and more of their core eCommerce services as well as their hosting infrastructure, and in so doing continue to push the web service frontier.