The Amazon Buy Box: What is it, How to Win, and What Can Go Wrong?

The Amazon Buy Box is a vital part of a seller’s or vendor’s success on Amazon. However, the Buy Box is a tricky moving target that many can’t seem to pin down. In this post, we will go through what the Buy Box is, how to be eligible for the Buy Box, and the frequent complications we see with winning the Buy Box.

First, what is the Amazon Buy Box?

The Buy Box is the physical section of the Amazon product page where shoppers see the price of an item and can click to add to cart or purchase. Most people (Amazon shoppers, vendors, and sellers alike) don’t realize that the Buy Box refreshes every fifteen minutes.

So what does the Buy Box refresh mean? The Amazon algorithm is constantly looking for the best Featured Offer to put in that Buy Box. The Featured Offer is the vendor or seller who happens to win the Buy Box placement during that given 15-minute interval for that specific product. All other offers from sellers and vendors are not readily available for easy purchase by Amazon shoppers.

According to Amazon’s data, 82% of Amazon sales go through the Buy Box, and that percentage is even higher for mobile purchases. This makes monitoring the Buy Box ownership rate of your products a critical task for the success of your business on Amazon.

Now that you know the anatomy of the Buy Box, let’s look at the factors that determine Buy Box ownership.

1. Price Competitiveness: Amazon wants to offer its shoppers the lowest possible price for any given product on its site. And that price competitiveness does not stop at the many offers that can exist for a single product (See the Tide example with 19 other offers on Amazon!) and includes other e-commerce sites. To be competitive and qualify for Buy Box Eligibility, you must offer the lowest price among the other Amazon sellers and across the e-commerce world. Amazon’s algorithms scrub other ecommerce sites like Walmart, Home Depot, Costco, and Kohls, to name a few.

2. Shipping Method and Speed: Amazon gives priority to those offers through vendors (shipped and sold by Amazon) or Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) services over those offers that ship customer orders themselves. This is for several reasons:

  • The Prime Badge – Offers that are Prime are more desirable to the Amazon shopper, and therefore, are given a boost by the Amazon algorithm compared to offers that are not Prime.
  • Guaranteed Delivery – Amazon can track and offer free same-day, 1-day, or 2-day delivery. The faster the shipping speed and earlier the delivery date, the better the offer looks to the algorithm.
  • Valid tracking, delivery on-time rate, and late shipment rates also play a role in qualifying you to compete for the Buy Box. Be sure that you are updating orders with valid tracking, getting orders out the door by your designated handling time, and keeping your late shipment rate low if you ship out of your warehouse. If you use Amazon FBA or are a vendor, these metrics do not impact you as much.
  • Amazon Customer Service – Orders shipped and sold by Amazon or FBA are handled through Amazon Customer Service rather than by the vendor or seller if there is an issue with the delivery or if a return is needed. This allows Amazon to control the customer experience rather than relying on individual parties to offer their expected level of service.

3. Seller Performance: Your individual seller metrics play an important role in your Buy Box eligibility. This includes your feedback metric, which customers rate based on your shipping speed, delivery, and customer service experiences.

  • This is where monitoring your Seller Feedback is critical. Learn more about Feedback and Reviews on Amazon.
  • Also, be aware of your customer response time to messages and the amount of feedback you’ve gotten. These play a role in your overall seller performance and ability to qualify for the Buy Box.

4. Stock Availability: Of course, if you don’t have inventory to sell, the Buy Box will turn over to another offer that is in stock. This is why it’s critical to monitor your inventory levels and be sure they are healthy to maintain customer demand and keep you from losing the Buy Box. Once lost, it can be very difficult to win the Buy Box back when you have product inventory in stock.

5. Sales Velocity: The more shoppers who buy your offer over other sellers helps you keep and maintain the Buy Box. Amazon wants shoppers to continue to purchase on their site, so they will feature the offer that continues to drive sales.

The Trouble with the Buy Box

With many clients, we run into the dreaded “Suppressed Buy Box.” This is when Amazon removes the Buy Box from the product detail page, and shoppers can no longer click the add to cart button. Instead, they are greeted with a button that reads “ See All Buying Options.” Your offer is still purchasable, but it has added another layer of consideration on the part of the shopper. To buy the product, they now need to compare your offer against those of other sellers on the same product page.

This is where your price, shipping, and seller feedback can be directly compared by shoppers rather than an algorithm. We have found that many shoppers either aren’t interested in comparing similar products and move on to find a different product altogether that can be added to the cart or one-clicked purchased with ease. 

“How can Amazon do this?” you may be asking. Well, this particular issue falls under their Marketplace Fair Pricing Policy that states:

“Amazon regularly monitors the prices of items on our marketplaces, including shipping costs, and compares them with other prices available to our customers. If we see pricing practices on a marketplace offer that harms customer trust, Amazon can remove the Buy Box, remove the offer, suspend the ship option, or, in serious or repeated cases, suspending or terminating selling privileges.”

This includes other e-commerce sites! When we encounter a suppressed Buy Box, we regularly ask our clients if there are any other online specials or promotions going on. If so, Amazon watches those sites, and if they are lower, Amazon then has the right to suppress the Buy Box.

So, when this occurs, look at your supply chain. Are any other sites (Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, Kohls, etc.) running a special on the product where it’s cheaper than Amazon? 

If not, there may be other reasons Amazon is suppressing the Buy Box:

  1. Sales volume could be too low at the offered price.
  2. Performance metrics aren’t good enough to be Buy Box eligible – for sellers only.
  3. The listing needs to be improved with better images, key feature bullets, or product descriptions.

There is no doubt that the Buy Box is a powerful tool for selling on the Amazon platform. Focusing on the guidelines above will help ensure that your products have the best chance for success.

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