Amazon Buy Box

Buy Box is a feature Amazon displays on its website product pages to encourage shoppers to add a particular seller’s item to their cart. It is located on the right-hand side of the listing and includes the price, shipping details, seller and fulfillment method, and “Add to Cart” and “Buy Now” buttons.

Between 82 to 90 percent of Amazon shoppers are estimated to use the Buy Box when purchasing products on Amazon. For a seller to be eligible for the Buy Box, they must have a Professional Seller Account. Amazon’s algorithm determines which seller’s offer appears in the Buy Box based on various factors such as price, shipping options, seller performance metrics, and inventory availability

According to Amazon, sellers with competitive prices, high seller ratings, and fast shipping times are more likely to win the Buy Box for a particular product. In 2007, Amazon founder and then CEO Jeff Bezos argued that the company used 'very objective customer-centered algorithms' to automatically award the Buy Box to the lowest priced seller, provided they had the item in stock and were able to deliver it. 

Amazon does not reveal the specifics of its Buy Box system, though it is considered highly probable that machine learning plays a significant role, given the complexity of the decision-making process, the need to adapt to changing market conditions, and the large amount of data involved.

System 🤖

Operator: Amazon
Developer: Amazon

Country: EU; France; Germany; Italy; Spain; UK; USA

Sector: Retail; Multiple

Purpose: Determine seller

Technology: Pricing algorithm; Machine learning
Issue: Business model; Competition/price fixing; Ethics/values

Transparency: Governance; Black box; Marketing

Risks and harms 🛑

Amazon Buy Box has been criticised for potential anti-competitive practices and violation of consumer protection law, as well as poor ethics and inadequate transparency and accountability.

Transparency and accountability 🙈

Amazon's Buy Box algorithm is seen to suffer from a number of important transparency and accountability limitations:

Research, advocacy 🧮

Investigations, assessments, audits 🧐

Page info
Type: System
Published: February 2023
Last updated: July 2024