If you’re reading this article you’re probably thinking what the Amazon Buy Box is all about or you may be selling an item but you haven’t got the Buy Box and you’re not making any sales and wondering what you’re doing wrong.
The Buy Box is an important topic, if you don’t share it with other sellers you’re unlikely to make many sales so it’s vital that you know all about it and what the criteria is as to what affects whether you win the Buy Box or not.
What is the Buy Box?
The Buy Box is the box that appears on the top far right hand side of the product listings page. When a customer clicks on the ‘Add to Basket’ or ‘Buy Now’ button to commence their purchase, the seller selling at the price listed wins the Buy Box sale.
The seller who currently has the Buy Box is listed under the ‘In stock’ section. For example, it will appear as “Sold by <sellers name> and Fulfilled by Amazon” if the seller is selling their product through Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) or ‘Dispatched from and sold by <sellers name>’ if the seller is fulfilling the order themselves (Fulfilment by Merchant (FBM)).
Under the Buy Box section, Amazon lists other sellers who are also selling the same product which customers can buy from also. These sellers can range from Amazon itself to FBA and FBM sellers. In this example, there are total of 4 sellers which consist of 2 FBM sellers and 2 FBA sellers.
In this example, the seller who currently has the Buy Box is actually not the cheapest priced seller. So how does Amazon decide which seller to grant the Buy Box to? That’s a big topic so we’ll cover that in the coming sections.
Why the Buy Box is so Important
Amazon always likes to put the customer first and therefore aims to provide a top quality service. When someone clicks on the ‘Buy Now’ button, Amazon wants to be as confident as possible that the seller of that particular product provides a fantastic service and offers the product at a reasonable price. With competitive products there are likely to be many sellers, Amazon therefore needs to select a particular seller to have the Buy Box for a period time. Amazon uses a range of metrics to determine who wins the Buy Box.
Over 80% of all sales go through the Buy Box. Even though buyers are able to purchase from other sellers that appear under the ‘Other Sellers on Amazon’ section, most will never bother doing this even though they may get it cheaper and they will simply click on ‘Buy Now’ button. As a seller, you want your item to be eligible for the buy box as much as possible as this will result in increased sales.
How Does the Buy Box Work?
Once a seller wins the Buy Box, it does not mean they will hold it forever. Amazon tries to rotate this throughout a number of eligible sellers to make it as fair as possible.
For example, if there are 4 sellers all with similar ‘good’ metrics and similar prices, Amazon will grant each seller 25% share of the Buy Box. However, if for a particular product there’s a ‘top’ rated seller and two lower ranking sellers, Amazon may grant the top rated seller 70% share of the Buy Box while the other two sellers may get the remaining 30% share of it.
There are 2 minimum requirements to be considered to for the buy box which include:
- You must have a professional/pro-merchant seller account. A seller who has an individual/basic seller account won’t be eligible.
- The product you’re selling must be new. Used goods are not eligible for the Buy Box although Amazon does have a separate Buy Used Box for this.
What other metrics does Amazon consider apart from the minimum requirements?
Amazon’s Buy Box algorithm favours merchants who fulfil their orders by Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA) over ones who use Fulfilment by Merchant (FBM). With FBA, the seller ships their products to Amazon’s fulfilment centres. Once an order has been placed, Amazon will deal with the dispatch of the order and they will also handle returns.
As Amazon are handling the orders with FBA, they can be certain that they are providing a reliable service and dispatching items on time thus providing great customer satisfaction which is key.
Even if a FBM seller has similar metrics to a FBA one, the FBA seller will have greater probability of winning the Buy Box even if they’re selling the product at a higher price. Using FBA is therefore normally recommended as even though there are higher fees, your profit margins should generally be higher as well as having increased sales.
Pricing is another key factor, Amazon wants to be a competitively priced marketplace. This is not to say, just because you are the lowest priced seller (don’t forget delivery costs count as well), you’re automatically going to win the Buy Box but it helps. For example, if your competitor has better metrics than you, than you will need to price lower than them. The better your seller metrics, the higher you can price your items and still compete and win the Buy Box even if you’re not the cheapest.
Delivery Times & Tracking
Delivery times also play crucial part. If you’re a FBM seller, you will need to compete with FBA sellers so ensure your orders are dispatched quickly ideally on the same day using a quick courier service. Don’t forget to always use a tracking service so that your customers can track their orders. Amazon also maintains a metric on this (‘Valid Tracking Rate’) so never forget to include the tracking number once your mark your order dispatched. Always keep your late shipment rates to below 4% otherwise you will face serious problems trying to compete against FBA sellers.
Order Defect Rate (ODR)
The ODR is an important metric that Amazon uses to determine your eligibility for the Buy Box. ODR measures a combination of three different performance metrics including negative customer feedback, A-Z claims and the service chargeback rate.
If a seller’s ODR reaches 1%, you lose the eligibility for the Buy Box for items Fulfilled by Merchant (FBM) and it may also affect FBA sellers as well. After losing your eligibility for the Buy Box, it will take 30 days with an ODR below 1% to be eligible again.
You should be particularly careful when you’re first starting out selling on Amazon. If you have less than 100 orders within a 90 day period, just one A-Z claim will mean your ODR will reach 1% and could mean that your account is in trouble and could be suspended.
Customer Response Times
Customer queries should be answered within a 24 hour time frame. In order to avoid A-Z claims being raised make sure you respond to customer messages quickly. If their message/complaint is acknowledged promptly, the buyer is less likely to raise an A-Z claim. If you don’t answer a query within the time frame Amazon will penalise you for this and this will reduce your likelihood of winning a share of the Buy Box.
Poor seller feedback will have a detrimental impact on your chance of winning the Buy Box. If you believe feedback left for you is inaccurate/invalid, i.e. the customer is complaining that they never received their order even though it was dispatched through FBA, ask Amazon to remove it so it doesn’t affect your metrics.
When dispatching orders when using FBM, always make sure you use packaging which adequately protects your products. If the item is fragile, use bubble wrap to ensure the items are not damaged in transit. If the customer proves that the item that they have ordered has been damaged in transit, refund them, that way the customer won’t need to escalate the matter by raising an A-Z claim and they are less likely to leave negative feedback.
For any product listings you’ve created, ensure that the products descriptions are accurate and you use clear photographs. That way your buyer is less likely to return items which could result in bad feedback and a reduced refund rate (attempt to keep your refund rate below 2.5%). If you’re listing a product on a already created listing which you believe has inaccurate/invalid information, contact Amazon to get this corrected before adding your product to the listing.
Enough Inventory & Consistent Sales
It may seem obvious but make sure you have enough stock as this can play a role in determining whether you win the Buy Box as well. If you keep running out of stock this may impact your chances so if you see that you’re running out of stock don’t forget to send some more into Amazon’s fulfilment centre. Having enough inventory will also mean consistent sales which is another aspect which is monitored.
Software to Use to Help Win the Buy Box
We’ve gone through the factors that can influence whether you may win the buy box or not. Now we will cover key software which you may find useful which can help with this task.
As we mentioned earlier, receiving great customer feedback is one of the keys of winning the Buy Box. Many customers will never think about leaving feedback after receiving their order. There is however a tool which can help you with this called Feedback Genius.
The tool allows to automatically solicit for feedback on your orders. It provides an easy to use wizard to set up your emails. You can use placeholders in your email to customise them to the relevant customers’ orders. You can also get automatically notified when you receive a negative review so you can respond to the customer as quickly as possible and resolve any issues that they may have.
Another issue you may face is with pricing, if you’re selling hundreds of thousands of products how do you keep on top of modifying prices when required? If you sell a product which has many other sellers, you will constantly need to be altering your pricing so that you can stay competitive in order to be eligible to win the all-important Buy Box.
Clearly this can be a challenging task if done manually especially if you’re selling many products. There are tools available to help you. This includes Amazon’s free (included in the professional selling plan) repricer tool called ‘Automate Pricing’. The tool allows you set pricing rules, for example, you can specify that you always match the Buy Box, beat the FBA price by £0.20 or stay above the lowest price by £0.50.
Amazon’s repricer tool although basic is really useful. If you’re looking for a more advanced pricing tool you can check out RepricerExpress. RepricerExpress allows you to even increase your prices when a competitor runs out of stock which a very useful feature.
If you’re fulfilling your orders by FBM, we would definitely recommend setting up a Royal Mail OBA business account (see how to set-up an account here). Any Amazon FBM order will automatically feed into Royal Mail’s OBA system so you can quickly process orders and generate shipping labels and tracking numbers will be generated.
If you’re based in the US, you can use ShipWorks, which allows you manage orders from multiple marketplaces including Amazon, Shopify, Ebay etc. It also allows you to compare carrier prices and it selects the cheapest price.
In order to keep on track of inventory, you can use Amazon’s inventory tools. You can use it to calculate such things as expected days of supply and recommended order quantity so it takes the guess work out of inventory planning.