Did you know that about 82% of all sales on Amazon happen through the Amazon buy box? If you’re reading this, you perhaps know all there is to know about the buy box and are now curious how to get there. For the uninitiated, Amazon is a marketplace, so it often has multiple sellers for the same product. Say a buyer wants a watch, and they’re particularly interested in this one.
On the right hand side, there’s an option to add this product to the cart. The seller right above the ‘Add To Cart’ option is the seller in the Amazon buy box- in this case, Action Gear. Other sellers for the same product are shown as a list underneath.
Now, think of this from a customer’s perspective. They just want to add the product to a cart and check out. They don’t care who the seller is, because if Amazon recommends someone, they must be good. Nearly every seller who is not in the buy box loses the sale, hence the 82% statistic.
Now that you know what the Amazon buy box is, wouldn’t you want to be in it all the time? By Amazon’s own admission, getting into the buy box and staying there is a process of convincing a highly complex algorithm that you’re a good seller. How can you do this?
The Influencing Parameters
If only we knew exactly how Amazon’s buy box algorithm works! That would make life so much easier. But then again, if everyone knew how it worked, they would all rush to leverage it and the end result would be the same. After deep analysis, experts agree that there are some factors that influence buy box placement. Here they are, in order of importance.
This is considered by far the most important parameter for buy box placement. Even if we set aside the fact that FBA sellers usually get higher preference in this regard, that fulfilment method is ranked highest makes sense. FBA orders can be fulfilled easily- which means a customer receives them faster than an order shipped from a seller.
That said, it is unfair to expect sellers to sign up with FBA just to get into the buy box- after all, FBA has its own commission and fees to account for. This is where Seller-Fulfilled Prime, or SFP, comes in. To be an SFP seller on Amazon, you need to have consistently high ratings and short fulfilment times, which goes back and serves the original purpose without forcing every retailer into the FBA model.
Excellent Seller Rating
Also Read: How To Handle Amazon Reviews Like A Rockstar
Any rating below a four on five is almost a no-go for the buy box. Your seller rating fortunately doesn’t depend on customer ratings alone. Factors such as the percentage of orders fulfilled without issue, percentage of returns and the amount of negative feedback you get all play a role. Amazon even takes your inventory into account indirectly – it looks at the pre-fulfilment cancellation rate, or the number of orders you cancelled from your end. In other words, you cancel an order when you don’t have enough inventory.
When your order fulfilment rate is very high, and when you keep the returns and pre-fulfilment cancellations low, your seller rating goes up. Amazon recommends that you keep your pre-fulfilment cancellations under 2.5% of all orders.
The final price of the product, including shipping and taxes, is one factor that influences buy box placement. But this is by no means the only factor, so don’t get into a price war unless you can absolutely afford to. It is enough to stay closer to the price of the retailer who is already in the buy box. Remember that your rating and fulfilment method are also playing a role in the meantime.
There are some software products such as RepricerExpress, that allow you to reprice your product in response to your competitors’ prices and the Buy Box price. They do this dynamically and continuously 24/7, repricing within the floor and ceiling limits you set (so you never sell lower than you wish). Using such Amazon repricing software can allow you to compete with Amazon, FBA sellers and Merchant fulfilled sellers differently.
If you don’t have stock of a certain product, you cannot be in the buy box. If you frequently go out of stock, your chances of winning the buy box diminish significantly. This is why it is so important to keep an eye on your inventory. Always do your calculations and be absolutely sure never to run out of stock. This doesn’t mean that you stock up too much and spend on warehouse space instead. Judicious inventory handling is a combination of knowing when to reorder, keeping an eye on the lead time and timely movement of stock so nothing gets piled up.
There are also several other factors that are somewhat important, but add up to the bigger picture. Parameters such as how soon you respond to a customer’s question, whether you have a valid tracking method for the products shipped, etc. do influence buy box placement. While they may not be as important as ones listed above, never ignore the power of small things.
Improving Listing Quality
Before you think of this as the magic solution, know that your listing quality will not directly influence the Buy Box algorithm. However, listings with all details in place, good images, the brand name specified in the title and a detailed description often find more buyers than products with incomplete information. This works in two ways- products with brand name mentioned in the title are found more easily for that name. Also, when a potential buyer is able to find complete information in one place, they’re more likely to make a purchase.
Take a look at this example of how a bicycle accessories seller managed to improve sales by improving listing quality and listing products under the right branch category.
Staying In The Amazon Buy Box
Finally, the day arrives when all your parameters are perfectly balanced and you find yourself in the buy box. However, this state of being is extremely fickle. If you slack off at this point, you may find yourself quickly replaced. In the truest sense, the race for the buy box is not so much a race at all. It is the culmination of your efforts in staying customer friendly and fast. In that sense, it serves its purpose.
Did you know that buy box rotation happens on a daily, even hourly basis? In a fair world, where there are 10 sellers and each one fulfils all criteria perfectly, each seller has the box for 10% of the time. In the real world, the seller with excellent parameters can be in the buy box, sometimes even 70% of the time. The buyer doesn’t see these changes. You, the seller, will receive messages about it.
If you’re already in the Amazon buy box, you can use Sponsored Product (SP) advertisements to make more sales. An SP ad lets you set up a campaign to be shown as a sponsored product when a buyer searches for a certain keyword. Here’s an example of a sponsored ad when we searched for ‘cold cream’
In order to set up an SP campaign, you already need to be in the buy box. Think it sounds counterintuitive? Well, if you’re in the buy box, you’re already driving 82% sales to yourself. A sponsored product ad can add to this by showing your product for a certain set of keywords. It isn’t the only way to improve your seller rating and stay in the box, but it is one way to drive even more sales to yourself.
Don’t Fall Into The Trap!
The buy box algorithm is not understood a 100% by anyone, which is what helps to make it unbiased. However, retailers still believe a few myths when it comes to the buy box. We’ll debunk a few of them right now so you never believe in them, ever.
- Myth: The lowest priced item wins the buy box.
Reality: This is just not true. A number of factors mentioned earlier influence buy box placement and price is just one of them. Sometimes, a seller with a higher price may be in the buy box too.
- Myth: If you own a brand, the buy box is yours.
Reality: In truth, being a brand owner doesn’t automatically place you in the buy box. If someone is reselling your products and offering faster shipping, better value, etc. they will be in the buy box.
- Myth: Being an FBA seller means no buy box worries. You’ll always be in the buy box.
Reality: FBA does bring faster fulfilment into the picture. But inventory and stocks-out also influence buy box placement. If you’re not diligent about inventory in a fulfilment center, you’ll lose the box soon enough.
The Bottom Line
The surest way to gain the buy box for longer is to compete only with yourself. Do the best you can in terms of price, fulfilment and feedback. Aim for as few returns as possible and always be cordial to customers. Also, if you have multiple products listed on Amazon, being in the box for one doesn’t mean being in the box for all. You must meet these criteria separately for each product to feature in the Amazon buy box.
Ever been in the Amazon buy box before? What do you think went right that time around? If you had to pick just one strategy to get into the buy box, which one would you pick?