Amazon is the largest and most widespread ecommerce platform in the world. It’s so big that it even flies its own cargo planes to handle its insane logistics. The world’s largest marketplace has two types of sellers:
- Amazon itself, which sells a huge range of products.
- Third-party retailers, who typically concentrate on one or more categories.
Since there’s no limit to the amount of sellers who can use the Amazon platform, multiple merchants frequently sell items similar to each other or even the same items in some cases. These sellers are known as resellers (as compared to private label selling in which you sell a proprietary item). The Buy Box is a term which is used to refer to the white box on the right side of the Amazon product detail page, where customers can add items for purchase to their cart. All the third party sellers are not eligible to win the Amazon Buy Box. Thanks to stiff competition and Amazon’s customer-obsessed approach, only businesses with excellent seller metrics stand an opportunity to win a share of this valuable feature (or online real estate).
To get a sense of how incredibly important prioritizing the Buy Box is, consider this:
82% of Amazon sales are processed through the Buy Box. This percentage is even higher for mobile purchases.
Understanding the way Amazon’s algorithms function will allow you to work towards increasing your performance on relevant variables, ultimately increasing your chances of winning the Buy Box and beating the competition.
The Transformation of the Amazon Buy Box
Heating up of the competition: Amazon is removing the one-click buy button from certain product listings if it’s offered at a lower cost outside of its platform. It has been termed “buy box suppression” by some sellers. Instead of the usual ‘add to cart’ options, buyers will see a box which reads “see all buying options”. Speaking on the phantom buy boxes, am Amazon spokesperson said: “Sellers set their own product prices in our store. If a product is not priced competitively by a seller, we reserve the right to not feature that offer. Customers can still find all offers on the offer listings page.”
What is Perfect Order Percentage Score’s fate? This metric, which never really had a high impact on the Buy Box, has been faraway from Seller Central.
Introducing the Buy Box for Books: Amazon introduced a Buy Box for brand spanking new books, allowing third party booksellers to compete with Amazon itself.
An Increase in Price Wars: Price Wars have experienced an upswing during the past year. This means that winning the Buy Box has become an even more competitive affair. New Research About the Buy Box: Northeastern University’s recent study explores the link between algorithmic repricing, higher prices and winning the Buy Box.
The Essential Buy Box Elements
While we refer to the goal of winning the Buy Box, it’s perhaps more accurate to say that a seller wins or loses a share of the Buy Box.
Upon a seller’s passing of Amazon’s minimum eligibility requirements, the Buy Box algorithm further breaks down the sellers based on different variables.
Amazon makes the competitors go against each other in order to determine how they hold up on each variable for the same product.
For highly popular items with many sellers, multiple merchants are rotated across their spot on the Buy Box.
If one seller is stronger than the remainder, their percentage share of the Buy Box is going to be higher.
For example, the top-ranking seller of a product could hold the Buy Box for 70% of the day, while the lower-ranking seller could hold it for the remaining 30% of the day.
Amazon’s Balancing Act
Ultimately, Amazon tries to balance giving the buyer the simplest value for his or her money.
This is achieved through the process of weighing low prices with high seller metrics.
What this suggests, among other things, is that if you’ve got near-perfect performance metrics, you can price your product higher and still obtain the Buy Box.
Whereas if you have mid-range metrics, you’ll probably need to focus on offering the most competitive price.
There isn’t one magic element, but a whole host of factors that go into deciding who wins.
After reading all of this, you might be thinking:
Well, doesn’t that only work if I’m competing against other third-party sellers? But what happens when the competitor is the mighty Amazon itself? Hasn’t Amazon perfected its customer performance metrics?
Well, it’s true that Amazon is hard to beat. But if you have great metrics, and very low prices, it’s possible. At the very least, you’ll share the Buy Box with Amazon.
How to become Buy Box eligible?
How can sellers land an Amazon Buy Box spot?
There’s no sure-shot formula to landing in, or winning the Buy Box rotation. However, you need to fulfill the following four criteria if you want to be in the fray of acquiring an Amazon Buy Box.
Professional seller account
Only sellers who have purchased a Professional Seller account (in Europe, it’s known as a Pro-Merchant account) are eligible. An individual seller (in Europe, it’s known as Basic account) is not.
Buy Box eligibility status
Your status can be checked inside the Amazon Seller Central.
Your item must be new.
Used items aren’t eligible for the regular Buy Box, though they can be sold on a separate Buy Used Box.
There should be an inventory of your listed items.
Without stock, the Buy Box will simply rotate to a different seller.
Alternatives to the Amazon Buy Box
If you are unable to win the Buy Box, don’t worry, it isn’t the only way you can sell your products on Amazon.
The other options are through:
Other Sellers on Amazon
Right under the Buy Box may be a list of up to 3 select listings.
All the Buy Box requirements must be met by these listings.
While not as visible because the Buy Box, these do have a greater chance of conversion than those prices or brands not exposed in the list.
Offer Listing Page
This page lists all the sellers who sell a specific product, no matter whether they’re Buy Box eligible.
Offerings are displayed in order of Landed Price (price + shipping).
Customers can also see other seller variables, including buyer feedback and rebate policies.
The Rising Importance of Buy Box Mobile
The number of customers shopping via Amazon’s mobile website and app has increased a lot over the years. Amazon reported that during the 2016 holiday period, 72% of their customers worldwide shopped via mobile, purchasing at extremely high frequencies.
The importance of Buy Box increases even more when purchases are made via mobile.
That’s because, unlike on a desktop or laptop, the mobile site features the Buy Box directly under the merchandise’s image.
Customers click “Buy now” to put their order, without the Offer Listing page being in their line of sight.
Note that there is no “Other Sellers on Amazon” box displayed on the mobile Amazon site.
The only name on display is that of the winner of the Buy Box.
If you care about reaching mobile shoppers, that’s one more reason to prioritize winning the Buy Box.
Amazon Buy Box Algorithm: Four Key Metrics
These are the four most important metrics for the Amazon Buy Box algorithm:
Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA)
The variable that has the greatest impact on the Buy Box is the product’s fulfillment method.
Since Amazon considers its fulfillment service to have perfect metrics across variables, using Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) is the easiest way to increase your chances of winning the Buy Box.
That’s not to say that Fulfillment By Merchant (FBM) sellers can never beat FBA sellers; it’s just harder, requiring extremely high scores across all variables and a very low price.
Even though FBA is often a smart choice, you still need to look at the big picture to evaluate whether it will save or cost you in the end.
Seller-Fulfilled Prime offers top-performing Fulfillment By Merchant (FBM) sellers the opportunity to fulfill their orders while enjoying the benefits of Amazon Prime.
You maintain control over your own shipment, which is especially good for sellers with heavy products, who can use this method to bypass FBA’s extra fees.
The only potential downside is that not all FBM sellers are eligible for this method. Very strong overall metrics are a must if you want to qualify.
The landed price refers to the entire price an Amazon product goes for, including shipping.
Lower landed price helps increase a seller’s Buy Box share.
If you have higher performance metrics than your direct competitors, you can also price higher and retain your share of the Buy Box.
However, if your competitors have better metrics, you’ll be forced to bring your price right down to maintain an equivalent Buy Box share.
The simplest metric checked out by the Buy Box is the time during which the vendor promises to ship the item to the customer.
Time-critical products and categories, such as birthday cards and perishable goods, face an even higher impact of shipping time on the Buy Box. The main reason behind that is the fact that most customers want lightning fast deliveries for such items.