First of all, what is the Amazon buy box?

The Amazon buy box is the big orange call to action that usually says “Add to Cart” and leads shoppers to the payment process when clicking on it.

When you are just a shopper on Amazon you might not even know about it, but when you search for something and click on a listing that comes up, then only one seller, even if there are many for that particular product, will be the one that “owns” that listing for the moment. That seller is in the buy box. What about the others? There is a small link below the buy box, the call to action that says “3 New from $X,XX”. Ever noticed that? Well when you click on that you’ll see a list of sellers, their item price, shipping cost and estimated shipping time. Only the one on top is in the buy box.

It’s no surprise that being in the buy box is of great importance as a seller. Most shoppers on Amazon might not be even aware of the option and even if they do, hardly anyone clicks on that small link, compared to the big button. In fact, more than 90% of Amazon’s annual sales of $62 billion dollars, happen through the buy box.

 

Amazon Buy Box Eligibility

Surprisingly, not even when you’re the sole seller of a listing is the buy box guaranteed. It is actually possible that no one has the buy box, even though your chances are greatly increased when you are the brand owner and/or only seller. But in any case, you need to be eligible for the buy box and maintain that status, even if you are the only seller.

 

In order to be eligible for the buy box you need to be a professional seller, meet the minimum requirements for the following factors, and sell new, not used, products:

Amazon Buy Box Factor Minimum Requirement
Seller Rating Higher than 75%
Shipping Time 14 days or less
Order Defect Rate Less than 1%
Late Shipment Rate Less than 4%
On-Time Delivery More than 97%
Customer Response Time Less than 24 hours
Tracked Delivery Rate More than 98%
Cancellation Rate Less than 2.5%

 

Amazon Buy Box for Private Label Sellers

If you are the brand owner, the steps to win the buy box is becoming eligible, register with Amazon Brand Registry and prohibit resellers and distributors from selling the product on Amazon. In this case you should be the only eligible seller and have the buy box at all times.

Buy Box for Resellers, Distributors & Retail-Arbitrage

If you are competing against other eligible sellers for the same listing, the situation is a bit more complicated. There are additional factors that determine who is winning the buy box. You should strive for getting the optimum on all factors.

Here is an overview of all the Amazon Buy Box factors, ordered by importance:

Very Important Amazon Buy Box Factors:

Fulfillment Method

Your product can be either fulfilled by Amazon by using Amazon FBA, or by the sellers themselves, or through another logistic service provider. Using Amazon FBA will increase your chances to win the buy box by more than any other factor compared to self-fulfilled sellers. Depending on the product and market, your landed price would need to be up to 20% lower when self-fulfilling (all other factors equal), in order to be on par with eligible sellers using Amazon FBA.

There are two reasons Amazon rewards Amazon FBA users that greatly. First of all, Amazon is there to make a profit, if you’re using Amazon FBA you are paying the Amazon FBA fees, hence you make Amazon more money with every sale.

The second reason is that Amazon has full control over other buy box factors such a shipping time. When using FBA, Amazon will always ship on-time and usually faster than you could do it with self-fulfillment.

Landed Price

The landed price of an item is the price including shipping costs, discounts and other costs charged to the customer. Usually on Amazon it’s the combination of item price and shipping cost. Having the lowest landed price is an important factor for winning the buy box.

Since this is such an important factor for winning the buy box and can have huge impact on your revenue, there is a healthy amount of automatic repricing software tools available, that can help you manage the pricing of your listing automatically.

Some Examples for repricing software are RepriceExpress, Sellery, SellerEngine and many more. Be careful though, they’re not “set and forget” solutions, be sure to monitor carefully when using repricing software.

Shipping Time

Amazon is striving to deliver all items as fast as possible to their customers. If you sell the same items as your competitors, at the same price, but yours needs 5 days longer to ship. Guess who will win the buy box? Right, shipping time is also a very important factor. When using Amazon FBA, this is one factor less you need to take care off.

Seller Rating

Amazon takes your seller rating of the last 365 days into account, when testing if you are eligible for the buy box (at least 75/100) and determine who is winning the buy box (Optimally your rating should be higher than 98/100).

The seller rating includes several different factors, such as if you ship items on time, the percentage of cancelled order, credit card chargebacks, negative feedback, your response time to customer inquiries and A-to-Z Guarantee claims.

Each of your orders is assigned its individual score, when it’s fulfilled without any problems you’ll receive a score of 100. You will receive a lower or even a negative score if the order results in the customer cancelling, you reply late to order-related messages, receive negative feedback etc. Your seller score is the average of all individual order scores over the last 365 days.

Important Amazon Buy Box Factors:

Feedback Score

Having a good feedback score is one of the important factor when it comes to winning the Buy Box. It is also one of the key measure that buyers use when making their buying decisions. A solid feedback score is a must for winning the Buy Box as well as doing regular business on Amazon. Customers are more likely to buy an item from a 4.5 star rated seller than a seller who is rated 4.0 or lower.
The first step in getting an excellent feedback score is to completely understand and follow Amazon’s Seller Best Practices. If you are a new seller and aren’t sure how to build trust, simply have a look at what other sellers trusted by customers are doing.
Thinking from a customer’s perspective is the key and striving to deliver an exceptional experience to them is essential in building rapport. The most common complaints customers have to include late deliveries, poor packaging, cancellation of orders without any good reason, unresponsiveness and aggressive behavior with the customers. If your customers are not happy with you due to whatever reason, there is no way you’ll be able to land on a Buy Box. That’s why you always need to put the customer first before thinking of anything else.
Feedback score is calculated as: SUM (positive feedback) / SUM (all feedback) for feedback left in the last 30, 90, 365 days, and lifetime.

Order Defect Rate

ODR is a metric used by Amazon to measure the performance of sellers and brands, which combines claims, customer feedback and chargebacks. Once your ODR has reached 1%, your chances of winning the Buy Box vanish. More importantly, once the ODR reaches the 1% threshold, it takes another 30 days to become eligible again. The ODR is calculated as: A-to-Z claims+Negative feedback+ service chargeback divided by total orders in a specific period.

For example, if you received an A-to-Z claim and negative customer feedback twice for 100 orders during a month, then the value of the ODR skyrockets to 3%.

It’s worth mentioning that an A-to-Z claim and a negative feedback for the same order is counted as one, which follows the logic that customers usually post –ive feedback right after an A-to-Z claim. At 1% ODR, you’ll lose Buy Box for all your products except FBA items, which are shipped by Amazon. Keeping a check on the ODR is also extremely important because of the fact that Amazon may even suspend your account or hold the payment in order to refund customers.  You should always remember that ODR below 1% is a red signal to your business on Amazon no matter how successful you have been or how big your business is. You only have 17 days to get back on the track after the ODR reaches the threshold.

January is particularly the month when most ‘1%’ occurs due to Christmas. If you manage to get this month right, the rest of the year should not be a big problem. Late deliveries on Christmas are the number one reason for A-to-Z claims and negative feedback from the customers.

The good news is that there are a couple of workarounds to this issue, including using Holiday Mode, setting up quantities to 0 in December and using FBA-only during this time. You can even out the sales you lost in December’s last week in the first week of January. However, these are just suggestions and in no way a rule-of-thumb. In case you have lost your Buy Box Eligibility, try using FBA-only even for some of your best selling items.

Late Shipment Rate

Amazon orders are considered late if shipments are not confirmed by the expected ship date as customers become anxious if they don’t receive their goods within time. Previously, an order was considered late when the confirmation was overdue by at least three days, but not anymore. The expected ship date is calculated using the handling time you configured in Seller Central. The default ship date is one to two business days if you haven’t manually selected a handling-time.

This makes it very important to provide accurate ship dates because if you input an unrealistic expected date, it is most likely to result in negative customer feedback. Amazon may even remove your selling privileges if your LSR is anywhere near 4% or above.

If you find your LSR increasing, it’s probably time to revise you lead-time-to-ship to something more realistic. It’s always best to update Amazon with tracking and shipping confirmation information as soon as you have shipped an item. After you have updated Amazon of this information, it’ll notify the customer, who is always keen to know where their order stands. Customers start feeling anxious if they cannot find critical information related to their orders. If you are constantly having trouble with timely shipments, it’s probably the time you should start using FBA otherwise it’ll only get worse for your business.

On-Time Delivery

Based on confirmed-tracking, OTD score simply represents the %age of items that customers receive by the estimated ship date. Tracking information is the most important element of OTD as it reduces buyers inquires as well as chances of product defects. Shipping status alone contributes to around half of the customer queries. Providing with accurate shipping information is the key to qualifying for the Buy Box.

You are on the safe side if a) tracking info is updated within 48-hours of entering the shipment confirmation b) the package is also delivered by the estimated delivery day as per carrier’s tracking data. Although Amazon supports tracking information update by most carriers, there may be some carriers it does not support. In that case, you can confirm multiple shipments using feeds.

Customer Response Time

CRT represents the %age of messages initiated by customers that you respond to within a time frame of 24-hours. CRT also takes into account the quality of responses to ensure customer satisfaction. Well drafted, timely sent messages are more likely to attract positive customer feedback and better chances of landing onto the Buy Box. If you think that a customer-initiated message does not need a response, don’t forget to mark ‘no response needed’ so that your message gets excluded from Amazon’s calculations. CRT also includes weekend days! Average Response time means how much time it took between customer’s message and your response. Late responses are %age of messages that you have not responded within 24-hours or not responded at all.

Tracked Delivery Rate

You need to have a tracked delivery rate of more than 98% in order to qualify for winning the Amazon Buy Box. This means that almost all of your trackable shipments should land on customer’s doorstep on time. Late deliveries are something customers really take seriously as they become anxious when their orders are not delivered on time. It’s best practice to update Amazon about the tracking info as soon as you have shipped an item.

Less important factors:

Cancellation rate

Although cancellation rate is not as important as other factors discussed above, it should still not be taken lightly as cancelled orders indicate something IS wrong somewhere. CR is simply the number of orders cancelled by customers before the seller actually ships them as well as orders that have been refunded after shipment. A rate higher than 2.5 percent could affect the chances of landing the buy box. Take your time to ensure that you have drafted quality product descriptions so that customers are absolutely clear about what they are buying.

Feedback Count

Although the more the feedback-count the better, it doesn’t mean you should start looking for ways to cheat the system. The count depends on many factors including the number of orders placed and competition. A buyer leaves a feedback based on a 5-star system i.e. 4-5 star translates into a positive feedback, 3 stars is a neutral feedback, while getting too many 1 or 2 star feedbacks can land you in some serious trouble. Providing an exceptional experience to the customer is the first step in getting feedback. You can ask customers for their feedback by sending well-drafted follow-up emails and perhaps by including an insert into your product. Soliciting top Amazon reviewers is another option if you want to build your feedback count, but this takes time and some thoughtful emails.

Inventory Depth

Inventory Depth

Having constant inventory levels also plays a role in scoring better to win the Amazon Buy Box. If you keep adequate inventory levels at all times, chances of winning it become brighter. On the other hand, if Amazon notices big fluctuations in your inventory volume, it may harm your ranking. Although there isn’t any clear formula that we know of based on which Amazon scores inventory depth, it does affects the overall score if fluctuations are noticeable. For example, frequently running out of stock for specific items or not being able to meet the demand often. However, Amazon considers the relative time when a seller runs out of stock and as long as you keep relisting your items, it won’t hurt the overall score.

Conclusion

Winning the Buy Box requires thinking from your customer’s perspective and there isn’t any rocket-science involved in figuring out what they want. Put yourself in their shoes and brainstorm what they expect from a good deal? Quality, good price, timely delivery, responsiveness and trustworthiness are some of the things that come into mind, and that’s also what Amazon is considering when ranking you. The better you meet these KPIs, the more chances you have of winning the Amazon Buy Box.

 

Katherine Hill

Katherine Hill

With years of Amazon Experience under her belt. She's the go-to person for cutting-edge Amazon Strategies and always an edge ahead of everyone else. On Azon Services she's sharing her latest Amazon insights with established and aspiring Amazon Sellers. She holds a Master in Integrated Marketing from New York University.
Katherine Hill