There’s no doubt that winning the buy box on Amazon is the key to making more sales as an online arbitrage seller.
With 80-90% of all sales made on Amazon being made through this valuable piece of real estate, knowing how to win the buy box on Amazon is crucial for 3rd party sellers to be successful.
Why is the buy box so effective?
Simple – it reduces the friction required for a customer to make a purchase. Having an “add to cart” or “buy now” button easily accessible allows buyers to make their purchases quickly and easily.
The purpose of this guide is to help you understand all the factors that go into how to win the buy box. Once you know what gives you a competitive edge, occupying the buy box is predictable and somewhat controllable.
By the end, you’ll know how the buy box works and how to win a larger share. Many of these tips can be acted on today to see immediate gains in sales.
The Buy Box Breakdown
As such a customer-centric company, Amazon’s algorithm will give the buy box to the seller that has the best history of positive performance, competitive price, and geographical relevance to the buyer.
The score is relative to other sellers you’re competing with, and variables are weighted differently. For example, since Amazon prioritizes low price over perfect account metrics, price is weighted very heavily when calculating who wins the buy box and a seller’s refund rate is weighted less.
If multiple sellers are similarly competitive for the same product, the buy box will rotate. Only one seller can occupy it at a time, but each seller will get a turn to make a sale. Buy box rotations happen sometimes as often as every few minutes.
You can see this if you check out an Amazon listing and refresh the page. The same seller will have the buy box – but if you go to the same listing in an incognito window or another device, it’s probable that you’ll see someone else holding the buy box.
If every other factor is exactly the same, sellers with a stronger history of key performance metrics (more on that later) will likely win the buy box more often than a seller that has just started out and hasn’t built up any metrics.
The best way to measure your competitiveness is to look at your share of the buy box as a percentage.
You can actually see this metric specifically in Seller Central under Reports>Business Reports>Detail Page Sales and Traffic by Parent Item. From there, you can see your share of the buy box in the table provided.
Highly competitive sellers might have a buy box share of 60%+, whereas an average buy box share is around 10-35%, depending on the number of sellers.
If you aren’t happy with what your buy box share is, use the methods below to increase performance and make more sales.
How to Qualify for the Buy Box
To qualify for the buy box at all, you must first meet a few requirements:
Get a Professional Seller Account
You need to have a Professional Seller account. That’s the $40/month version of an Amazon seller account.
There are a number of reasons why it’s best to go Professional, and a big one is buy box eligibility.
Sell Items in New Condition
The item being sold needs to be in “New” condition. Only sellers that offer products in “new” condition will be competing with each other – you’re not going to see a “used” offer beat a “new” offer for the buy box.
If you’re not clear on the condition guidelines, you can read all about it here.
Please note: There is the Buy Used Box for offers that aren’t selling “new” products, but that makes up a small percentage of the overall buy box sales and is only applicable for “used” vs “used” products. For our purposes, we’ll be discussing the buy box for “new” offers only.
Provided that you meet those requirements, let’s talk about everything you need to know to gain more buy box share.
How to Win the Buy Box on Amazon
Think Carefully About Your Fulfillment Method
When products are shipped directly from an Amazon warehouse to a customer, it’s called Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA). Products that ship directly from the 3rd party seller are Fulfilled by Merchant (FBM).
You can tell whether a seller is FBM or FBA by looking at the area underneath the yellow buttons.
For FBM sellers, you’ll see a shipping charge as well as a notice that says “Ships from and sold by XYZ Seller.”
FBA sellers show “Sold by XYZ Seller and Fulfilled by Amazon.”
FBM vs FBA
Historically, the most important factor that went into determining who would win the buy box was the fulfillment method.
Although being an FBA seller still plays a massive role in buy box competitiveness, FBM sellers in recent months have gained more traction in buy box eligibility.
Even when competing with FBA sellers directly, FBM sellers will sometimes win if their performance metrics and price are more favorable to the customer.
FBM sellers that participate in Seller Fulfilled Prime are understandably more competitive for the buy box, since they’re delivering their orders in the same time frame as FBA sellers.
That being said, being an FBA seller is still going to be the most important factor in helping you win the buy box.
Since the fulfillment is totally handled by Amazon, your account is considered to have perfect shipping metrics, you’re able to offer two-day delivery, and your customer support is handled by Amazon themselves.
Determining who will win the buy box is a relative evaluation (between you and your competition for that specific product), so an FBM seller who might have had a late shipment in the past 6 months, for example, will automatically be much less eligible for the buy box than you.
Price is the second-most important variable to win the buy box. Adjusting your price is also one of the most immediate factors you can fix – many of the other variables can take months to see a significant difference.
Lower prices mean typically mean a better customer experience. To keep sellers competitive, the offer with the lowest price will usually win the buy box.
That doesn’t mean that the lowest price will always win the buy box, as there’s a lot more at play; but if you’re an FBA seller, having the lowest price is going to help you capture more sales.
We suggest matching the buy box price as the first line of defense and only undercutting the buy box price after waiting several months with no movement.
A strong word of warning: please don’t take this advice to mean that you should always undercut the buy box price so that you can get all the sales to yourself.
In fact, that’s the opposite of what I’m saying. Undercutting like that will usually result in you losing more money in the long-run. Your competitors can get spooked and start undercutting you back – starting the race to the bottom and slashing profits for everyone.
If you want to learn more about how to win more of the buy box while still preserving your profits, you can read our guide on how to set up repricer rules on Amazon.
Stay in Stock
The next factor that affects the buy box winner is the availability of the offer; that is, is the product in stock? Consumers want their products now – like, right now, right now.
The longer they have to wait, the more likely they are to get frustrated or go to a competing retailer. Therefore, sellers that are in stock are more likely to win the buy box.
However, it is possible to own the buy box when you’re back-ordered.
Typically, this is because all other sellers are also back-ordered or just totally out of stock.
A sub-metric that gets taken into account along with current availability is inventory depth. Essentially, that just means that if you have more stock of the product, you’re less likely to run out.
When Amazon sees that potential consistency over a seller with inconsistent in-stock rates and sales history, they’re more likely to grant a larger buy box share.
Long story short, items that are immediately available will be featured in the buy box over offers that are back-ordered.
Cultivate Flawless Seller Feedback
Seller Feedback plays a big part in Amazon’s buy box algorithm. These are the reviews from customers about how you’ve performed as a seller.
They’re like Amazon product reviews, but rather about how a customer’s interaction was with you. There are two components to Seller Feedback:
Part 1: Your Feedback Score
Firstly, your feedback score – the ratio of positive to negative feedback over the past 30 days, 90 days, 365 days, and the lifetime of your account.
Don’t stress, though! The most recent feedback is weighted the most heavily, so even if you’re just starting out, the playing field is a bit more level. You don’t need to have dozens of reviews to be competitive – a handful of 5-star reviews should suffice.
As an FBA seller, having a perfect 100% feedback score is entirely possible. To learn how, read our guide on how to remove negative seller feedback.
Part 2: Your Feedback Count
Secondly, your feedback count – the total number of seller reviews you’ve received over (you guessed it) 30 days, 90 days, 365 days, and lifetime.
Again, that’s a good thing! The more recent stuff gives you more juice in the algorithm, so you don’t have to be selling for years to be competitive for the buy box.
That being said, Amazon does give more buy box share the more feedback you have. If you want your account to age like fine wine, check out our tutorial on how to gain positive seller feedback.
Respond to Customers Quickly
While on the topic of how your customers can impact your ability to get the buy box in the future, you may be surprised to learn that customer response time plays a role in the buy box algorithm.
Even as an FBA seller, you will probably receive some customer communications about their order, one-off questions, etc. Responding to these questions in a timely manner is very important to winning the buy box.
These messages should be responded to as soon as you get them, but should not take longer than 24 hours. Replying quickly will actually make you more competitive in the algorithm.
However, if you get into the habit of responding to these messages over 24 hours, your chances of winning the buy box will drop substantially.
A good customer experience is critical to Amazon, and should be important to you as a business owner as well.
Watch Your Order Defect Rate
The last factor that impacts buy box share is your Order Defect Rate. Click here to learn more about how the ODR is calculated by Amazon.
Ideally, you’ll want to keep this value at 0%, meaning that none of your products have been defective.
The target metric stated by Amazon, however, is under 1% of your total orders. To meet these criteria, inspect (or have your prepper inspect) your products before shipping them into Amazon’s warehouse.
Make sure products are exact matches to the listing, that they’re in brand new condition, etc. Quality control goes a long way here.
The Alternative Option to the Buy Box
It is possible (and sometimes even common) for there not to be a buy box currently on a listing at all. This is called a “suppressed” buy box.
Usually, this indicates one of two things:
The most likely scenario is that every offer is algorithmically determined to be too high. If a product is more expensive than Amazon expects it to be, that would result in a poor customer experience, so nobody gets to win the buy box.
Instead of the direct “Add to Cart” button, buyers will have the choice to “See All Buying Options.” The product is still available for purchase, but customers have to go through this additional step to review all the offers for that product.
If that’s the case, you have a few opportunities to capitalize on.
You can either price similarly to the other sellers (assuming sales are still being made at that higher price – check Keepa to be sure) and take advantage of the higher margins; alternatively, you can price lower than everyone else, if that’s still profitable, and potentially get the buy box reinstated.
If so, you’d win the vast majority of sales that come through that ASIN.
The second scenario is that nobody has the required metrics to earn the buy box. This is much less common that the buy box being suppressed due to price, but it can happen.
In this case, you can come in with your (hopefully) positive metrics and regain the buy box. If you want to learn more about winning these sales too, read our article on the ultimate guide to a suppressed buy box.
Now that you know the metrics that impact your ability to win the buy box, I recommend tweaking the ones you have immediate control over.
Switch to FBA (if you’re not already), set up repricing rules, and quality control every product before shipping it into Amazon. Long-term, you’re going to need to generate seller feedback and keep your account health in check.
Track your buy box share in Seller Central to know how these changes are affecting your competitiveness. Implement these steps, and I guarantee you’ll see an improvement in sales and a more profitable business.
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