Keeping up With the Amazonians: My Observations on Amazon’s Buy Box Algorithm Modifications During the Pandemic

As the eCommerce powerhouse of today’s world, Amazon facilitates logistical, financial, manpower, digital, and social networking systems similar to that of a self-governing state.

Having the ability to create its own policy to govern everyone in its ecosystem, it is normal for concerns or issues to surface along with the increase in traffic and activity. This has been especially true in 2020 and 2021 where the COVID-19 pandemic has affected various aspects of human existence, including socio-economic conditions.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was reported that consumer spending fell 7.5%. However, online shopping has been viewed by most consumers as a safer and economical means of shopping for consumer items and essential goods.

Consequently, as buyers continue to avoid physical stores and practice social distancing, Amazon site engagement and sales increased, rising to 26% as compared to its preceding year.

Unverified Correlation | Amazon Buy Box Algorithm & Other Changes

Over the past months, Seller Snap has observed potential changes in Amazon and its algorithm. Although there might be a correlation with increased site activity and the perceived changes, Amazon and other industry experts are yet to give a conclusive statement about the concerns observed by Amazon sellers.

If proven right, this would not be the first time that a significant increase in Amazon shoppers has resulted in transactional and data issues. Seller Snap previously discussed some of the glitches Amazon encountered over the past years in one of our articles.

The points I will be highlighting directly concern Amazon FBA and FBM sellers who are in pursuit of Amazon Buy Box share.

Suspected Amazon Algorithm Modification – Timeline

April – May 2020 | FBA Effect Weakened, FBM Preference Observed

It was early April that numerous third-party sellers complained about the alleged adjustments made by Amazon on their product search algorithm. It is believed that Amazon had to tweak its algorithm to favor FBM sellers in winning the Amazon Buy Box.

This alleged Amazon Buy Box algorithm change, has been encountered by Seller Snap  numerous times as we saw sellers with more expensive FBM listings winning the BuyBox over FBA. Hence, suggesting issues with Amazon Buy Box algorithm.

It can be deduced from the reported incidents of alleged Amazon Buy Box algorithm concern and Amazon’s warehouse struggle that subtle policy change was adopted to give Amazon Buy Box preference to merchant fulfilled listings. Amazon turned to FBM sellers who can deliver faster than those sellers under the FBA program. Hence, relieving pressure on their fulfillment centers.

It was not only the Seller Snap community who noticed the alleged Amazon Buy Box algorithm concern and the priority being given to FBM sellers for the Amazon Buy Box. A former Amazon employee and co-founder of Buy Box Experts, James Thomson, also noticed the said modification of the Amazon algorithm.

In an article of Multichannel Merchant, Thomson was quoted saying that “On Fulfilled By Merchant (FBM) offers similar to FBA offers, they’re giving preference to FBM in the algorithm.”

April – June 2020 | Price Gouging

The adverse impact of COVID-19 pandemic reached even the moral fiber of the human person as some Amazon sellers unreasonably increased the pricing of items that are in high-demand, including but not limited to face masks, alcohol gel, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other essential goods.

To simply put it, the act of taking advantage of an external crisis, like the current pandemic, to charge excessively for basic necessities is called price gouging. With the proliferation of price gouging in the Amazon marketplace or unjustifiable Amazon price changes, the tech-giant took steps to combat such acts. Through our clients, Seller Snap noticed a mass deactivation of seller listings, even those that you would not perceive guilty of price gouging

In their official blog page, Amazon emphasized their non-tolerance for price gouging and the steps they took to eliminate such practice within the marketplace, employing both manual and automated means. Thus, showing how serious the tech-giant when it comes to unjust Amazon price changes.

With automated means being emphasized, it is safe to assume that changes in their algorithm potentially took place to hasten the resolution of such a concern. Similarly, Seller Snap also took a proactive approach with such a concern ensuring that our clients are equipped with sensible and ethical repricing strategies amidst this COVID-19 pandemic.

June 2020 | Incorrect Data 

Just the other month, another issue was noticed by our team and our customers, concerning discrepancies in Amazon’s data. It involved an inconsistency between the data displayed by the Amazon Price Change Notifications, Marketplace Web Service API, and the data that  Amazon was showcasing on the actual listing’s page.

The focal point of the concern was that the API’s data inconsistency affects any repricing software of its ability to make an efficient and effective repricing decision.

In the past, comparing the API data to that of the actual information displayed on the listing’s page was the ultimate solution when inconsistencies between listing page information and the data coming from AnyOfferChange Notifications occur.

Seller Snap opted to apply different yet effective repricing strategies until the issue was resolved.

July 2020 | Amazon Buy Box Non-Rotation 

Just recently, the Seller Snap community informed us that they noticed that Amazon appeared not to be rotating the Buy Box. That being observed, we assumed that another Amazon Buy Box algorithm change has been made, similar to the aforementioned instances.

Buy Box rotation is a critical mechanism involved in awarding third-party sellers a spot on Amazon’s product detail page to showcase their price offer for a certain product. Such a mechanism operates when multiple FBA sellers are presenting relevant offers that are reasonable and competitive at the same time.

Our separate website post highlights a more extensive discussion about this particular concern on Amazon Buy Box rotation.

Moving Forward

The last few months have been a challenging phase for all of us. However, we managed to adapt and continue to move forward as a global community amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the context of eCommerce and Amazon enterprise, system issues were observed and adjustments were executed to serve as temporary improvements to the sudden influx of online activity and demand of consumers.

The issues outlined above might not be the last of the many changes Amazon will implement in 2021. Despite the uncertainty, Seller Snap continues to assure our customers that whatever abrupt changes Amazon would make, our team will go above and beyond to investigate the concern and apply necessary workarounds until a complete solution is delivered.

By the way, before you go. I’d like to thank you for reading up to here.

And just a friendly reminder that what you just read is purely based on the observation and experience of myself, our team here at Seller Snap and the growing Seller Snap community over past months. This is more of an opinion, rather than matter of fact.

Note: This article was first published on July 31, 2020 under the author’s LinkedIn account

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