Winning the Buy Box for Sensible Sellers

by Joanna Lupo

Serious sellers know about Amazon’s Buy Box, but are they approaching it from the right angle? Do they constantly worry if their higher price means they’ve been nudged out of that yellow Promised Land? Do they stay up at night wondering if that one negative comment is going to cause them to bounce off the gravitational pull of the Buy Box and into "Other Sellers" oblivion?

Are you in the same boat? Understanding why you need the Buy Box, how to get it and how to approach it will help ease those concerns.

You Need the Buy Box

Currently anywhere from 70% to 82% of all sales on Amazon go through the Buy Box, which makes it the single best way to increase sales on Amazon. More Buy Box impressions equals higher revenue. To add to that, as more and more shoppers start buying things from mobile devices, Buy Box conversions could easily exceed 90% because choosing the "Other Sellers" option will be more cumbersome on smaller screens. Soon, winning the Buy Box may be the difference between making strong sales on Amazon and being virtually invisible.

But the Buy Box is Not the Only Goal

Many strategists would have you think that the Buy Box is the "Holy Grail" for Amazon sellers, but don’t be deceived. Your real goal is maximizing your return on investment of the products you are selling. The Buy Box is simply one (very important) way you can reach that goal. If you are winning the Buy Box at the expense of your bottom line, you have sabotaged your business plan.

The Best Way to Think About the Buy Box

When it comes to winning the Buy Box, you can make it as complex or as simple as you want.

The Buy Box is an algorithm, and a highly sophisticated one at that. If you had access to it, you could spend a lot of money hiring analysts to create an incredibly intricate formula that would forever optimize your selling.

However, it’s in Amazon’s best interest to hide the Buy Box algorithm. As soon as people start gaming it, they will have to make new rules to weed out the so-called black hatters (to use an SEO term). Google has always been trying to stay one step ahead of those who try to "reverse engineer" their search algorithm, and Amazon will take the same approach to keep a level playing field.

We at eComEngine always advocate for the simpler approach. Amazon is going to adjust and improve the algorithm to meet its primary business goal, which is to give an amazing customer experience. Therefore, the simple approach to winning the Buy Box is to price your products at attractive rates for customers and make sure their entire experience is as positive as possible.

While taking into account marketplace pricing is important, the quicker you learn to stop worrying about the algorithm and start pleasing your customers, the better. Amazon is entitled to change the rules as often as it wants, but those changes will likely always favor those who better serve its customers at the lowest price possible.

What Does a Sensible Seller Need to Know about the Buy Box?

As you serve your customers, you should also stay educated on best practices for winning the Buy Box. The first distinction you need to know is that for most SKUs, Amazon rotates which sellers are featured in the Buy Box. This means that unless you have a dramatically lower price than everyone else, you should find contentment with "sharing" a percentage of Buy Box impression with other sellers.

What Factors Influence your Ability to Get the Buy Box?

The Buy Box can only be given to those with a Professional Seller account. Once you are eligible, there are a number of factors that go into how often you are featured in the Buy Box. The exact weightage of each of these factors is unknown, but two of them stand out above the others.

The first is if you are FBA or not. Amazon will always give preference to FBA sellers because they know they can control the fulfillment part of the customer experience.

The second is price. Lower is always better, but you don’t have to be the lowest to get into the Buy Box. There is a "sweet spot" of pricing that you can target in order to get your fair share, and you don’t have to find yourself in a race to the bottom.

Both factors are critical. If you maintain a good FBA standing along with a competitive price, you drastically increase your chances of being featured in the Buy Box. However, a third factor to consider is your Seller Metrics. The primary metric to consider is managing your feedback, but other stats like your order defect rate and customer response time are also critical.

This post is the first in a series that will examine each of these three factors in greater depth. We will examine some smart and sensible changes and tweaks you can make in order to have a better share of Buy Box impressions.

As we look at these three factors, we’ll keep the big picture in mind (maximizing return on investment), and point out the strategies that will always work, regardless of how complex algorithms get. So sleep tight, enjoy the insights, and get back to pleasing your customers.

To take the first step toward winning the Buy Box more consistently, check out our inventory management tool called RestockPro.

Originally published on April 10, 2015, updated May 31, 2019

This post is accurate as of the date of publication. Some features and information may have changed due to product updates or Amazon policy changes.