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Buy Box Series: How Does the Buy Box Work?

By Tami Ben-David May 7, 2015
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About the Author

A British ex-pat, Tami been writing and content-strategizing for Israeli tech start-ups for the last 5 years. When she's not writing nerdy content, you can find Tami on open water charity swims or traveling to far-flung countries.

If you’re an Amazon seller, then there is no such thing as knowing too much about the Amazon Buy Box. We’ve collected some of the Buy Box’s basic rules and mechanisms all sellers should know.

Here’s a Buy Box Breakdown

Some background

Amazon’s goal has always been to offer the best possible experience to their customers. The Buy Box was created with the objective of comparing multiple offerings of the same product in order to determine which will give the customer the highest level of satisfaction.

To put it very simply, the Amazon Buy Box is an algorithm that tries to give the customer the best possible value for money. It does this by determining which product offering promises the best balance of high seller performance and low cost price.

When determining which product offering will win the Buy Box, the algorithm first determines which of the competing offerings meet all the necessary minimum requirements. It then breaks down each eligible offering into many different variables, and evaluates each one relative to the other sellers offering the same product.

Buy Box Rotations

Amazon has long abandoned the idea of giving the Buy Box to a single seller for very popular products. Instead, the Buy Box is shared between several sellers, with their share of the Buy Box determined by the variables mentioned below. We will discuss these variables at length, starting from page 12.

For example, if there are ten perfectly equal sellers all competing for the same product Buy Box, they might get 10% each. This means that each seller will have their offering shown in the Buy Box for 10% percent of each day.

Alternatively, a relatively high performing seller could have 70% of the Buy Box, an average seller could have 25%, and a lower performing seller, 5%. Therefore, instead of saying that a seller wins or loses the Buy Box, the correct term would be to say that a particular seller has a lesser or greater share of the Buy Box.

It is important to note that Buy Box rotations do not always take place. When they do, they are often dependent on the product, the competition and the time of day. Furthermore, these rotations are hidden from the customer, as Amazon use cookies to ensure each customer sees only one Buy Box winner per hour. However, if the Buy Box winner’s metrics changes for whatever reason, such as the price of the product or the amount of available stock, Amazon may rotate to another seller before the one-hour time period is up.

Beating Amazon to the Buy Box

A question often asked by sellers is why Amazon themselves are always winning the Buy Box, and if it is possible to ever beat them to that most sought-after position. The Buy Box treats Amazon as a seller with perfect customer experience metrics. Therefore, if a merchant has near perfect customer metrics, or a very low landed price, we often see them sharing the Buy Box with Amazon, or beat them straight out if the price is low enough.

The one big exception to this is with regard to specific media categories. When selling books or downloadable media, Amazon will always win the Buy Box, as the algorithm does not consider other sellers if Amazon themselves have the product in stock.

What Happens When No Seller Qualifies for the Buy Box

There are 2 instances in which no seller will win the Buy Box

1. When no seller meets the requirements (see p.13)

2. Sellers that do meet the requirements have substandard seller metrics.

When the sellers’ prices are deemed unreasonable because they are higher than the List Price. The List Price is the full retail price (suggested by the manufacturer or supplier, or estimated according to standard industry practice), found below the Product Name on the Product Detail Page.

In these cases, the Buy Box will show a See All Buying Options button, and the buyer will be taken to the Offer Listing page (also known as the More Buying Choices page), which lists all merchants who sell this product in order of landed price only.

We hope you’ve learned a couple new things about how the Buy Box works, and that you can utilize some of it to land the Buy Box more often.

Want to learn more about the Buy Box?

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