How to Pick the Right Amazon Product Category
Every sale on Amazon comes through the Buy Box in one form or another. In most cases, through the Buy Box winner. Although it’s a tiny little white box, it yields a great amount of power with Amazon shoppers. As with anything else with great power, you must master how it works, how to protect it, what to do if you lose this power and how to harness each element for total mastery over it.
Most Amazon shoppers buy products through the Buy Box. When a consumer proceeds through this section, the seller which is highest ranked by Amazon at that time will show up there. The Buy Box winner inevitably makes more sales than any other seller for that product. This is why it’s crucial for any Amazon seller to understand the Buy Box and how Amazon determines who gets the Buy Box spot, as it has a direct influence on your bottom line.
This blog will help you understand how the Buy Box works, what is needed to win the coveted Buy Box spot against stiff competition, how to recover when you lose the Buy Box and related pricing strategies that can help you on your way.
Buy box win rates will vary a lot in the short term, but consistent application of best practices will pay off. Here’s evidence from one of our clients. The growth in win rate has revolutionized their performance to becoming a 7-figure Amazon brand.
Learn the principles of buy box optimisation with these tips and you too could see the same results.
What is the Buy Box?
When an Amazon shopper clicks into a product listing on desktop, they will be presented with some important information:
- The product images (left)
- Product title, number of ratings, any variants, and bullet point descriptions
- Buy Box (Right)
On mobile, it will be more prominent with
- Title + Ratings
- Image Gallery
- Buy Box
The Buy Box widget allows consumers to quickly and easily purchase the product.
It comes with a whole host of helpful information to help the shopper make a quick decision, including if the product is new or used, the delivery times, the number of items, and the gift options available. Once they’ve made these choices, they can then easily add to the basket. Near the end, and appearing much less prominently, will be the other purchase choices they can make.
Most products have multiple sellers, which Amazon shoppers can select if they wish to purchase from instead of the Buy Box owner. In the example above, the shopper can click new 2 at the bottom of the Buy Box and will say all offers from all sellers on that listing, including delivery prices, fulfilment timelines and customer reviews, to help inform their choice.
Other options – the same seller, but it doesn’t offer FBA with slower delivery times
After clicking add to basket, the Buy Box brings the consumer to the checkout page. Its purpose is to make the shopping experience as convenient as possible by facilitating a purchase within a quick scan and a few clicks.
4 Reasons the Buy Box Matters
Primary CTA: If you’re selling a product on Amazon, owning the Buy Box increases your chances of making a sale significantly. It’s the first and primary call to action a consumer will see on a product listing page.
Ease of Convenience: For most items, there will be several buying options available. When a shopper selects ‘Add to Basket,’ the seller with the Buy Box will get the sale unless they choose to select the other options buried away at the bottom of the Buy Box. Most consumers will ignore this for ease of convenience. Plus, most consumers won’t be aware or interested that sellers are competing for ownership of the Buy Box and that ownership can change hands frequently.
Amazon PPC: Buy Box owners can create Amazon PPC ads. Those who don’t own the Buy Box won’t be able to create ads for the product, limiting a major traffic source for driving sales and revenue on Amazon.
Customer Trust: Winning the Buy Box has the bonus of customer trust. Amazon shoppers associate the Buy Box with high-quality customer service and top-quality products.
Does Every Product Have a Buy Box?
Most products a shopper sees on Amazon will have a Buy Box. However, there are instances where customers may not see that all-important widget.
Pricing Issues: If the product appears at a much higher (or lower) price than the average sales price, this might spook Amazon’s algorithm and can see the Buy Box disappear for that particular product. This can be commonly seen in collectable products and used books where few sellers can set very high prices outside the norm for price changes on Amazon. This puts Amazon into action to protect its shoppers by removing the Buy Box completely on those listings.
In these instances, instead of the usual Buy Box with Add to Basket CTA, you will be met with a ‘See All Buying Options’, bringing you to the Additional Sellers page (as if you had seen a Buy Box and clicked the other options basket.)
Buy Box Eligibility
To become eligible for the Buy Box, you will need to have a Professional Seller Account as Individual Sellers do not qualify for the Buy Box.
It’s not quite as easy to have a Professional Seller account and feel that it’s the big part over. Your overall seller Account Health must be good. The healthier – the better. This includes:
- Good customer service performance
- Product policy compliance
- Excellent shipping performance
Beyond the Buy Box, these metrics are just good to be on top of if you want to make Amazon successful for your products.
You can check your Account Health on Seller Central by clicking on Performance > Account Health.
In Seller Central, you can go to the search bar and type ‘Buy Box’, where a help window will present a tool that allows you to check Buy Box availability. You just need to enter the ASIN or SKU.
Provided you’ve met the requirements (and there aren’t lots of competitors), you will become eligible for the Buy Box quite quickly.
If you’re just starting on Amazon and not using FBA, be aware that it’ll take a while before your products enter the Buy Box. This is because Amazon will need proof that you have the products and fulfil the orders in a timely fashion. Until Amazon has evidence of this, you’ll not be eligible for the Buy Box.
Gaining eligibility is the relatively easy part. Winning the actual Buy Box is the tricky part.
Checking Buy Box Status
You can do this on Seller Central. At the top of the Dashboard and just below the menu, you will see various metrics. The Buy Box is at the far right, which lets you see your two-day Buy Box percentage.
Here you’ll also see the performance in each market you sell in, and you can click on the percentage, which will take you to your Pricing Health page for an overall picture of your pricing health across your range.
You will find this data in the Business Reports section of Seller Central
Reports > Business Reports > Detail Page Sales and Traffic by Parent Item
Unfortunately, Seller Central doesn’t make it easy to track SKU-level buy box changes over time. If you face a lot of competition to dominate the buy box, we recommend using 3rd party software to automate the process and collect easy to understand data. More on this later.
What is Buy Box Win Rate and How to Measure It
As we can see above, Amazon will show the account-level ‘buy box win rate’ also known as the ‘buy box percentage’. Seller Central will also allow you to measure and report on buy box win rate at an individual SKU level.
Before we get to that let’s define buy box win rate;
Number of pageviews where your offer was in the buy box / Total number of pageviews for that ASIN in the same time period
- There are 5 sellers competing to win the buy box on one ASIN
- Your offer is one of those 5
- There are 100 sessions
- Your offer is in the buy box for 60 of those sessions
- Your buy box win rate on that ASIN is 60%
How to Win the Buy Box
It’s doubtful that you’ll control the Buy Box immediately unless you’re the only seller of the product. Some considerations for what will help you win the Buy Box are below:
Brand Registry: One of the benefits of brand registry is that it gives you greater control over the Buy Box. For instance, if you’re a brand with authorised resellers, you may find many unauthorised resellers selling products via Amazon. Brands should look at external factors such as limiting competition with robust supply chain procedures such as selective distribution policies.
Fulfilment Method: Non-Prime Sellers can win the Buy Box, but a clear advantage is given to products that use Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA). If non-FBA, Amazon will continue to keep an eye on your shipping, and it will be a metric factored into whether you’re eligible to win the Buy Box. Amazon calculates how well you’re doing with shipping based on your projected shipping time and actual shipping time and successfully fulfilled orders.
Shipping Time: This is the time taken to ship the product to the consumer. The quicker the delivery time, the better chance you have of winning the buy box, dependent on the other factors in this section.
Landed Price: This is the purchase price plus the shipping fee. Unsurprisingly, lower prices will attract consumers and make Amazon happy. Often the lowest price will appear in the Buy Box (dependent on other factors being met). If you list your product within 5% of the current Buy Box price, it can go some way to helping you win the Buy Box.
Order Defect Rate (ODR): This forms part of your ability to provide a good customer experience and includes all orders with one or more defects represented as a percentage of total orders during a given 60 day time period. Amazon recommends that you maintain an ODR under 1% to sell on Amazon and as low as possible to help with winning the Buy Box.
Valid Tracking Rate: This is the percentage of deliveries sent with correct tracking information. This measures the share of orders delivered with accurate tracking of all your delivered orders on your merchant fulfilled orders.
Late Shipment Rate: Orders that are shipping confirmed after the expected ship date as a percentage of total orders, over both a 10-day or a 30-day period and applies to seller-fulfilled orders.
On-time Delivery: This score shows the percentage of seller-fulfilled packages that buyers received by the estimated delivery date.
Feedback Score: This is the reviews that buyers leave of your service with an average score out of 5 from customer feedback… This relates to the Seller Rating, not to be confused with product reviews. You can check your seller rating by clicking on your trading name on the product page. Amazon aggregates your feedback into 30 days, 90 days, 365 days, and lifetime time-range buckets. In time, your aggregated star rating and positive feedback percentage will change accordingly as your feedback rolls through each time-range bucket.
Customer Response Time: The time taken to reply to customer questions. A good seller should answer queries within 12 hours and certainly no more than 24 hours. It’s important that you have the people and processes in place to check your Seller Central account multiple times throughout the day.
Feedback Count: This is the number of customers that have provided feedback. The higher the number, the better provided the feedback has been largely positive.
Inventory Index: Amazon’s inventory performance index measures inventory health – capturing low inventory and excess inventory levels for your SKUs. Optimising inventory reduces lost sales, lessens inventory holding costs and the better your IPI score is will help towards achieving the Amazon Buy Box.
Cancellation Rate: This is all seller-cancelled orders represented as a percentage of total orders over the past 30 days. CR only applies to seller-fulfilled orders. This metric includes all order and item cancellations initiated by the seller.
Refund Rate: This is all seller-requested refunds as a percentage of refunded orders within the previous 30 days.
Inventory Location: The location of the inventory in relation to the end consumer is also important. Amazon will give the buy box to the seller with stock in an Amazon fulfilment centre closer to the customer’s location with everything else being equal. This can be especially important in larger countries where the location will significantly impact Amazon’s delivery time and cost. It’s not something you may have control of, but if you get to the point where you’re doing everything right but still can’t seem to get the buy box, this could be the likely reason.
Once you’ve taken care of the above considerations, you have given yourself a fighting chance of winning the buy box. Our Amazon Buy Box Factors “cheat sheet” breaks down the different variables factored into Amazon’s buy box algorithm. Downloadable by clicking on the image below.
Reasons You’ve Lost the Buy Box or the Win Rate isn’t 100%
For those of you with no competition on the buy box that has less than 100% buy box win rate. Don’t fret. There are many reasons why this can be the case, and we’ll look at a few below.
FBA Returns: If you’re selling your item via FBA and it results in a return, Amazon may sell the return on in a ‘Warehouse Deal’ where they sell the item ‘like new’ at a lower price, and in this instance, Amazon will win the buy box which can skew your buy box win rate.
Low Prices outside Amazon: If Amazon notices that the product is being sold considerably cheaper off Amazon, they may also remove the buy box due to what Amazon will see as too big a disparity between on and off Amazon pricing.
Low Traffic: For listings with low traffic and sessions, Amazon may remove the buy box.
Rapid Price Increases: Amazon may remove the buy box if your sales price increases to a level beyond what might be considered a normal range. It’s partly to stop price gouging, but often it catches our brands that have reduced their reseller competition and suddenly move back up to the recommended sales price. If you have the opportunity to increase prices do it gradually.
It’s very unlikely that you will see a 100% buy box win rate but don’t worry as long as you’ve optimised were most relevant, then the share of the buy box you do receive will be a significant one.
How To Dynamically Price Products to Win the Buy Box
Amazon has an ‘Automate Pricing’ tool that will reprice your products automatically as soon as it discovers its difference to the current Buy Box price – i.e., another seller lists the product for less than your offer.
Amazon has created pre-defined rules for you to automate pricing. You just need to add SKUs to the pre-defined rules. You can find out more about the pre-defined rules here.
To access the ‘Automate Pricing’ tool, go to your Seller Central and click Pricing> Automate Pricing.
You can toggle between your different marketplaces here and select the rules specific to your marketplace.
You can create a new rule for repricing by clicking on the yellow ‘Create a customized Pricing rule’ button, which will provide you with four options:
- Competitive Buy Box: Changes your offer price to above, at or below the current Buy Box offer
- Competitive Lowest Price: Lets you offer the lowest possible price below other listings:
- Competitive External Price: Set offer to reprice based on non-Amazon prices, although beware this can lose you the Buy Box if the price is significantly higher than the current Buy Box price.
- Based on sales units: Lets you reduce the price for a certain amount of units, which can be suitable for sales promotions.
The parameters will change dependent on the rule you select. In the above example, we’ve chosen the ‘Competitive Lowest Price rule.’
Amazon asks specific questions such as:
- What type of offers do you want to compare to on Amazon and lists different options related to the condition, fulfilment method, feedback rating and if only offers from third party sellers
- Price comparison outside Amazon
- If you want to reprice with the parameters even if you update pricing elsewhere in Seller Central.
There are also a wide selection of 3rd party ‘repricing’ tools on the market. They tend to offer a greater range of price bidding rules and better dashboards to understand how price and other factors are influencing the buy box.
Here are some of our favourites:
What to Do if You Lose the Buy Box
Buy box competition is at the heart of what has made Amazon a desirable destination to buy products. Creating a system that forces sellers to compete, mainly on price, to win the sale is great for consumers and ultimately great for Amazon.
For sellers it can mean constant attention and strategising around how to win and maintain buy box win rates.
If you sell a product with multiple sellers, then expect your win rate to fluctuate. It’s the nature of the beast. There are, however, many things you can do to increase your chances of success.
Note that this isn’t a secret. Optimise for all of the buy box algorithm factors that we’ve listed earlier in this article.
Prioritise price, fulfilment method and in stock rate. Then move onto the other factors.
You may also find that Amazon takes the buy box away from you for other reasons.
It can happen when Amazon finds the same product at a lower price outside of Amazon. Amazon will remove the buy box (or featured offer as they may describe it). A multi-channel pricing strategy becomes all the more important in these instances.
You will receive a Performance Notification in Seller Central if this does happen. Check these notifications regularly and have alerts set up in your repricing tool as a backup.
If you are losing the buy box, then analyse the ‘why’ first. Review your performance for all buy box factors, then diagnose where there is room for improvement. Prioritise your plan of action based on which factors will have the biggest impact and/or are quickest to rectify.
Escaping Buy Box Competition
If you lose the buy box then you can’t use Amazon PPC to drive traffic. Sellers often end up in a catch-22 and don’t know how to get out of it.
The secret is to drive traffic from outside of Amazon. You don’t have to worry about other sellers taking the sale on the traffic you generate thanks to this little known feature!
From within Amazon, a search for ‘L’Oreal Mascara’ might bring a customer to this URL –
Right now the buy box winner is IWGA Group but we can see 5 other sellers.
These sellers can’t send traffic to the page because IGWA would pick up those sales. Here’s where our little secret comes in.
- Open up the link to the other 5 sellers
- Click on the trading name for one of the sellers
- This will take you to their seller page, click on ‘products’
- Here we see a list of the products they sell, find the L’Oreal mascara
- Click on it and it will show the exact same product page but now the seller we chose in step 2 is the only seller!
Notice that the URL is different.
Use this different URL to drive your traffic and boost sales without having to fight for the buy box. Just don’t tell anyone we’ve shown you this 🙂
There is no one way to win the Amazon Buy Box. Instead, by creating a successful holistic approach to your Amazon strategy, you will give yourself the best chance of winning. Have strategies in place for both winning and reacting to losing the Buy Box and use all methods at your disposal to help rise above the Buy Box competition.
Focus on the most critical metrics and variables related to the Buy Box. Excellent customer service, speedy delivery, and competitive pricing are vital areas taken into account when Amazon decides the Buy Box allocation. More than that, it also sharpens all areas of your Amazon strategy, which will be good for the end consumer and ultimately for your success on Amazon.
For more information on creating a holistic Amazon approach that helps you win the Buy Box and become an Amazon Best Seller, get in touch with our founder at email@example.com.