The Buy Box is an essential part of the Amazon marketplace. It creates a simple and convenient shopping experience for buyers, by showing just one page per product regardless of how many sellers are offering that product.
For sellers, the Buy Box contributes to the highly competitive environment on Amazon. Only one seller is chosen as the Buy Box “winner” for each product listing, and they will get the lion’s share of sales as long as they remain in the Buy Box.
As a result, sellers need to know how to win the Buy Box, if they want to get a more than just a trickle of sales. Although the Buy Box seems simple on the surface, it hides a complex algorithm. Here’s everything you need to know about how it works.
What is the Amazon Buy Box?
The Buy Box is a feature on Amazon that helps customers make purchases without needing to consider exactly who they are buying from – whether it’s Amazon themselves or a marketplace seller. It’s located at the top right of every Amazon product page.
Many products are available to buy from multiple Amazon sellers, so Amazon uses the Buy Box to select the “best” seller for each product. In the image above, EpicCo has “won” the Buy Box. This is also called being “in” the Buy Box or “owning” the Buy Box. It means that they are Amazon’s selected seller for this product, at this point in time.
When a customer clicks “Add to Cart” or “Buy Now”, the merchant who is in the Buy Box at that moment automatically wins the sale. The customer can expect Amazon to have chosen a seller who provides a competitive price, rapid delivery, strong customer service and various other factors that will help ensure their satisfaction.
Most sales on Amazon come through the Buy Box, so sellers who win it regularly will make a lot more sales than those who are rarely featured.
How can I win the Buy Box?
If you are the only seller of a particular product, you will automatically win the Buy Box.
Otherwise, it’s usual for the Buy Box to be shared between multiple sellers rather than owned by the same seller 100% of the time. To win a share of the Buy Box you must:
- Be eligible to win the Buy Box
- Be chosen as the winner by the Buy Box algorithm
There is more information on eligibility and the Buy Box algorithm below, but here’s a quick summary.
To be eligible to win the Buy Box for your products you need:
- A Professional selling account
- Good performance metrics
- Sufficient order volume
Amazon’s algorithm takes into account the following factors to decide on the Buy Box winner.
|Factor||Importance||How to improve|
|Item qualifies for Prime||High||Use Fulfillment by Amazon or Seller Fulfilled Prime|
|Total price to customer||High||Use automatic repricing software, and keep shipping costs down|
(for non-FBA items)
|Medium||Optimize your fulfillment and delivery processes|
|Performance metrics||Medium||Monitor and improve your Amazon metrics|
|Seller feedback||Medium||Reduce potential complaints, deal with actual complaints effectively|
|Consistent stock availability||Low||Use sales forecasting software, take account of supplier lead times, maintain safety stock|
Note that Amazon does not publicly disclose how its algorithms work. But the Buy Box has been studied extensively, so we can be confident about the importance of the factors above.
What factors are used in the Buy Box algorithm?
The Amazon Buy Box algorithm takes several areas into account. Here’s a summary:
If your product offer has the Prime badge you will get a big boost in the Buy Box. The two ways that marketplace sellers can qualify for Prime are:
- Using Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)
- Qualifying for and shipping under Seller Fulfilled Prime (SFP)
Signing up for FBA is one of the simplest ways to increase your chances in the Buy Box. Seller Fulfilled Prime achieves the same goal, but you must first demonstrate to Amazon that your shipping operation has consistently excellent performance.
The total price the customer pays is another factor of very high importance in winning the Buy Box. Keeping the price down by using a repricing tool and not charging for delivery can significantly increase your chances of appearing in the Buy Box.
The factors above have the highest influence on your Buy Box placement, but there are several others that the algorithm takes into account.
- Shipping time (non-FBA): If you ship items yourself, keep your handling times as short as possible. Same-day shipping is now pretty standard.
- Performance metrics: The algorithm can take into account any metric that relates to customer experience, including negative feedback rate, A-to-Z guarantee claims, valid tracking rate, late shipment rate, customer response time, cancellation rate and more.
- Sales volume and inventory: Selling more items, and always having products in stock is an important factor in the Buy Box algorithm.
If your items qualify for Prime and you have the lowest price, or are close to it, then the factors above can help push your share of the Buy Box higher than competitors who also have Prime and a good price. Without Prime and a competitive price, these other factors are unlikely to make a difference.
Is the Buy Box relevant for all Amazon sellers?
The Buy Box is used on all Amazon product pages, but it only really matters to sellers of “competitive products”. In other words, sellers of items which have other merchants offering exactly the same product as well.
For example, a pack of Energizer AA lithium batteries with ASIN B071D87WPV has 40 merchants competing for the Buy Box.
The Buy Box still appears, and works the same way, even when Amazon itself sells that product. You can compete against Amazon and win the Buy Box, but it’s more difficult to beat than another third-party seller. There’s more on that in the Buy Box myths at the end of this article.
Products that have only one seller still have a Buy Box, but you do not have to compete with anyone else to win it (however it can be “suppressed” if Amazon thinks your price is too high – more on that later).
Typical examples of products with only one seller include:
- Private label products sold under your unique brand.
- Direct-to-consumer brands sold only by the manufacturer or an exclusive partner.
Part of the appeal of private label selling is that it creates unique products, so sellers can “own their listings” and do not have to compete with other sellers for the Buy Box.
What percentage of sales go through the Buy Box?
Sales increase dramatically when a seller wins the Buy Box for a particular product. But exactly how many sales happen because a customer used the Buy Box, rather than the link to view other sellers?
The best guess we have is that 82% of sales go through the Amazon Buy Box. This estimate comes from a 2013 report by software company Feedvisor, and only Amazon itself knows exactly what proportion of sales go through the Buy Box.
The percentage of sales that go through the Buy Box is undoubtedly very high. Most shoppers will take the most convenient path and use the Buy Box to make a purchase. Only a few will go to the trouble of researching other sellers to try and save a few extra cents.
The increase in mobile shopping will have pushed the proportion of sales that go through the Buy Box higher still, as the Buy Box is even more prominent on mobile browsers and the Amazon app.
Can sellers who are not in the Buy Box make any sales?
Below the Buy Box, you will find another box called “Other Sellers on Amazon”, whenever there is more than one seller of a particular product.
This is how merchants who are not in the Buy Box can gain some sales, but only if the buyer clicks the link to see the list of other sellers. Only a small proportion of sales on Amazon happen this way.
The Buy Box is even more important for customers buying on a smartphone, as it appears directly below the product image and price. The “other sellers” box on mobile browsers, and the Amazon app, is less prominent than on computers with full-size screens.
The short answer is that sellers must win the Buy Box if they want to capture a significant share of sales. Understanding what it takes to do that should be a priority for all sellers of competitive products on the Amazon marketplace.
How does Buy Box eligibility work in detail?
There are certain criteria you need to meet as a seller to be eligible for the Buy Box. These are not the factors for winning the Buy Box, but just those that you need to be in the running for it.
- You must have a professional selling account, with a paid monthly subscription of $39.99. Individual selling accounts are not eligible.
- Your Order Defect Rate, Cancellation Rate, and Late Shipment Rate performance metrics must be in good standing.
- You need to have a high enough order volume, which varies depending on the categories you sell in.
You can check eligibility at a product level in Seller Central. The “Buy Box Eligible” column is not shown by default so needs to be turned on as follows:
- Select “Manage Inventory”
- Then select “Preferences”
- Finally select “Buy Box Eligible”
- Save changes
Now the relevant inventory reports will include a Buy Box Eligible column.
Buy Box eligibility is mostly decided on at a seller level, but the order volume requirements vary by category so it is possible to be eligible for some but not all of your products.
The Buy Box is not exclusive to just one seller. Every merchant who sells the same product has a chance of appearing in the Buy Box. The number of times a seller appears in the Buy Box, versus the total number of times a product is viewed, is that seller’s “share” of the Buy Box.
For example, if a product is viewed 100 times and you are in the Buy Box for 15 of those times, then your share is 15%.
This is also known as the “Buy Box percentage” or “rotation” and can be viewed in Seller Central.
The Buy Box algorithm decides which seller wins the Buy Box for a specific product at a specific time, which over time results in each seller’s percentage share.
For example, if there are five sellers of a particular item, all using FBA and with identical pricing, performance metrics, stock availability and so on, then each merchant should have a Buy Box share of exactly 20 percent.
In reality, things are never that simple. Each seller is unique and their individual factors will lead to different Buy Box shares. Amazon does seem to try and rotate the Buy Box between different sellers, but it will weigh the rotation more heavily towards the “better” sellers. The share will rarely be equal in the real world.
Note that the Buy Box will not always rotate between sellers for a particular product, and that Amazon will try to keep the Buy Box winner consistent when one shopper views the same product multiple times. You are unlikely to see the rotation by simply refreshing the product page yourself, but you might see it if you visit repeatedly an hour or more apart.
Often sellers shouldn’t aim to get exclusive access to the Buy Box, but to get the largest share that they can. It’s not a zero-sum game where one seller wins and all their competitors lose.
What is Buy Box suppression?
Buy Box suppression happens when the Buy Box does not appear at all on a product detail page, even if there are multiple merchants offering that product. Amazon may decide to suppress the Buy Box for reasons including:
- None of the sellers are eligible for the Buy Box
- The sales volume is too low
- Amazon believes the price offered is too high
The third reason – the price being too high – is the one that is seen most often. What makes a price “too high”? Here are the most common reasons:
- The price is higher than the manufacturer’s recommended price
- Other ecommerce sites have a significantly better price
- The price has jumped up very quickly, which may indicate unfair pricing or “gouging”
A suppressed Buy Box can be identified easily, because instead of the buttons to “Add to Cart” or “Buy Now”, the listing has a button labeled “See All Buying Options”.
The shopper can still click “See All Buying Options” to show all the prices and sellers for this product – the usual offer listing page. However, the main effect of removing the Buy Box is to deter buyers from making a purchase at all. Many shoppers will have a knee-jerk reaction that the product is not available, and return to the search results to find an alternative.
This shows Amazon’s “Marketplace Fair Pricing Policy” in effect. This policy says:
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
If you are eligible for the Buy Box, but the Buy Box is suppressed for a particular product, the first thing to look at is usually your price.
Popular Amazon Buy Box myths
The Buy Box is hugely important in determining a seller’s success on Amazon, but it is governed by computer algorithms – those mysterious, opaque systems that rule so much of our world today. No-one knows exactly how they work. Sometimes, not even the people who created them.
So, not surprisingly, there are quite a few common myths around the Amazon Buy Box.
Myth 1: You can’t beat Amazon to the Buy Box
It’s true that Amazon itself often wins the Buy Box for products that it sells, but it is possible for third-party merchants to get at least a share of the rotation.
This example, on Amazon.co.uk, shows Amazon behind three marketplace sellers on the offer listing page. The top seller, Kidco, is in the Buy Box on the product detail page. All sellers have the Prime badge and a better price than Amazon, which explains their higher ranking.
Amazon do go out of stock sometimes, which can be a great opportunity to win the Buy Box. Some sellers deliberately choose not to compete with Amazon on price, and instead wait until they run out of stock so they can take over the Buy Box at a higher price for a while.
Myth 2: The lowest price always wins the Buy Box
Price is a big factor for the Buy Box, but not the only one. The other factor of almost equal importance is having the Prime badge, either through FBA or Seller Fulfilled Prime.
This doesn’t mean that having Prime is an open invitation to charge high prices, but Prime items can often be priced a little higher than others and still win the Buy Box.
In this example, the Buy Box is being won by BMTech with a Prime offer of £278.16, even though the lowest price is £259.99. This is also another example of a marketplace seller beating Amazon to the Buy Box, with a price only one penny lower this time!
Myth 3: You can keep the Buy Box to yourself
There’s plenty you can do to enhance your chances of appearing in the Buy Box, but even if you’ve optimized everything, you might not get exclusive access.
The Buy Box algorithm will often give other merchants a chance to appear, especially if their price is lower than yours. It can take very aggressive pricing to win the Buy Box 100% of the time, and be more profitable overall simply to share it with other sellers.
Myth 4: You just need to turn Buy Box eligibility on
There’s confusion in some places about Buy Box eligibility. Amazon decide if you’re eligible to appear in the Buy Box, not you.
The thing you can turn on in Seller Central is the Buy Box eligibility column in the reports. You aren’t turning on eligibility itself. But wouldn’t it be great if it was that easy?
This article was originally published in May 2019, and updated in May 2020.