The buy box – it’s no doubt the most prime piece of real estate in all of e-commerce…
But if you think that winning the buy box is the only way to get sales on Amazon, think again. While as much as 90% of sales on Amazon are made through the buy box, what about that last 10%?
With the competition in online arbitrage growing fiercer every day, that 10% can make a substantial impact on your success.
Many Amazon sellers steer completely clear of “suppressed” buy boxes because they don’t understand how it works.
It’s a shame, really, because some of the most profitable sales out there are made when there isn’t a buy box.
Today you’re going to learn why that is, how it all works, and how to capture more sales for your FBA business without a big, yellow “add to cart” button.
Suppressed Buy Boxes: A Hidden Opportunity
Why do so many sellers avoid suppressed buy boxes?
The biggest part is that they’ve been told that the buy box is the end-all-be-all of how to make sales, so they don’t bother to learn how to strategize when it’s suppressed.
This is great news for you, because after this guide you’ll be able to out-compete other sellers.
Now don’t get me wrong, the buy box is massive, and mastering it will provide more benefit to your business than mastering sales without it.
However, as we’ll see in a second, suppressed buy boxes specifically have an innate potential to score you larger profits.
While it may only make up a small part of your units sold, those units might very well be worth the squeeze.
How It Gets Suppressed
First, we need to know that Amazon uses algorithms to determine which sellers will win the buy box at any given moment.
For everything you need to know about what factors are at play to help you win more sales, read our full, in-depth guide on how to win the buy box.
In this context, there are two factors that are most likely resulting in a suppressed buy box.
Lost Due to Price
The first (and by far the most common) is price. Essentially, Amazon’s algorithm has determined that the prices for all the offers on the listing are too high. How does it know what “too high” could be?
Well, Amazon takes the all-time price history of a product and compares it to the current price. If the current price is significantly higher than what it’s been at in the past, the buy box will likely be suppressed.
You’ll know a buy box is suppressed when there isn’t an option to “add to cart” directly from the listing. Instead, you’ll see a button that says “See All Buying Offers.”
Customers who click this new option can check out what all sellers are priced at. The lowest prices of any fulfillment method are shown first.
That means that merchant fulfilled sellers (if they’re priced just right) might beat FBA sellers out. However, buyers can sort by Prime offers and a few other criteria.
From this point, they can add products directly to their cart and things proceed as normal from there.
Lost Due to Metrics
The second factor that can cause a suppressed buy box is that no seller has the performance metrics required to earn the buy box.
This is incredibly uncommon, but it can happen. If you suspect that’s the reason why no one has claimed the coveted buy box, you can confirm that suspicion by looking at their seller feedback.
To do this, view all the offers available and check out their positive review ratio. A great seller feedback rating is 95%+, while good is 90%+. If you see that most of the sellers have below “good” feedback, it’s probably worth doing a little digging to figure out why.
Read about their recent feedback and see if customers are upset about something wrong with the product you’re interested in selling.
Recurring complaints about a specific product across multiple seller accounts is unusual – it’s probably a safe bet to stay far away.
The Anatomy of a Suppressed Buy Box
This is what a suppressed buy box looks like:
There’s no “add to cart” button. Instead, customers are able to purchase products by clicking on “see all buying options.”
From there, they select the offer they want to purchase.
The offers are sorted by lowest price, but there’s an option to filter by fulfillment method.
How to Take Action With a Suppressed Buy Box
So why now know why a buy box is suppressed and how to identify them, but what can we do about it? It depends on your selling strategy, but I’ll tell you everything you need to know and let you decide what’s best.
The most important step to take before anything else is to make sure that the product is still making sales with a suppressed buy box. I highly advise using tools like Keepa and checking the buy box history.
Here, the buy box is lost when the price increases from less than $10 to $19. We can tell that because the pink diamonds indicating that there’s a buy box disappear after the price jump.
As you can see by the sales drops (the solid green line), there are still sales made after the buy box is suppressed, but not nearly as many. This is typical – not only is there an extra step the customers have to jump through, but the price is likely significantly higher as well.
What constitutes an “acceptable” sales velocity after the buy box is suppressed is totally objective. Take a look at the number of relevant sellers (your competitors) and see what kind of a share you’d get of the remaining sales.
If there is a history of making sales without a buy box, you should be set. If not, I recommend passing it up and moving on. For more info, you can read our guide on how to read Keepa graphs.
Okay – so you’ve determined it’s making sales without a buy box. If it’s suppressed due to price, you have two options.
Match Your Competitors
You can match the most competitive FBA price and see if customers will buy your product by viewing “all offers.” This method is potentially very profitable.
Think about it, if the buy box is suppressed because of a higher than normal price and it’s still selling, your margins will be bigger.
However, its main downside is that the sales velocity is probably going to be slower than if there was a buy box. That’s how customers are used to making purchases, and anything different will throw off those with less buying persistence.
We recommend using this method if there’s a strong history of sales, even with a suppressed buy box, and if you’re willing to wait a little bit longer than normal to make more profit.
Undercut the Price
Alternatively, you can check out what the buy box has historically been established at and undercut your competitors to win it back.
Same story, use Keepa and do your due diligence to track a historical trend. If there’s no trend, don’t risk it; there will be plenty of great products in the future.
Undercutting can be very risky and should be handled with care. If you’re too aggressive with your pricing, the other sellers might get nervous, impatient, and start a race to the bottom – tanking your price and margins along with it.
We suggest not pricing lower than you have to, and especially not pricing to be the only seller. Our knowledge base has a great guide on how to reprice your products for further reading.
This strategy is strong if the sales really slow down with a suppressed buy box, if the product is seasonal and you need to make those sales now, or if your preference for selling products is mostly fast-turns.
You’re just going to have to use your best judgment to figure out how to approach a suppressed buy box when it comes to price.
If you have any doubts, it’s best to start out by matching the other sellers. That way, if you aren’t seeing the sales you’d like, you can always lower your price to reinstate the buy box. It’s much easier to play it conservatively than to wait for sellers to raise their prices back up.
Win With Metrics
If you come across a case where it’s suppressed due to poor seller performance metrics, we strongly encourage you to put some detective work into why so many sellers in one place have negative reviews.
It’s better to be safe than sorry, as what happened to them could totally happen to you.
Taking a risk like that for short-term profit is totally unnecessary, and will drastically impact your ability to sell effectively in the future.
If you read about what their upset customers had to say and figure out it has nothing to do with the product you want to sell, go for it! Although rare, that’s a great opportunity to come in with your impeccable account metrics and steal the show.
Now you know what many other Amazon sellers don’t – how to take advantage of the nebulous suppressed buy box. I hope you apply this advice and see great results with this little-known opportunity.
To put this knowledge into practice, join our 100% free sourcing list. We put out 5 free product leads every week, some with suppressed buy boxes, that you can actually sell on Amazon today.