“They’re not letting me do withdrawals, not currently shipping outbound from their warehouse, and not letting me win the Buy Box...I’m getting hit on all fronts.”
'Business as usual' is hurting third-party retailers on Amazon. As the website delays shipments of nonessential items, other sellers can now actually ship much faster than the e-commerce giant. Unfortunately, Amazon’s seller algorithm hasn’t been updated, so these independent sellers aren’t winning the “Buy Box,” according to Recode. This pushes them into the “Other Sellers on Amazon” section which customers are less likely to check, especially for quick shipments.
What’s the Buy Box?— When you go to a product page on Amazon, there’s a main “Add to Cart” button. Amazon weighs seller ratings, shipment speeds, and prices to determine who “wins” this Buy Box. Unsurprisingly, Amazon or sellers who use its fulfillment centers win thanks to their ability to ship within two hours to two days.
Customers are most likely to just click the Buy Box than investigate additional seller options, especially on mobile. To make matters worse, Amazon started suppressing the Buy Box in 2018 for products where it loses, offering a “See All Buying Options” button instead of Add to Cart. This can happen to over-priced or duplicate listings, but simply not being Prime eligible can be reason enough.
A multi-pronged problem — Competition for the Buy Box was already high, but now, sellers shipping by themselves are being shut out. Now that fulfillment centers are postponing their orders (processing time can also affect Buy Box eligibility), they are shipping on their own and three to seven-day shipping now beats Bezos. Additionally, this is all new product since the sellers can’t withdraw items from Amazon warehouses as its workforce focuses on pandemic-related essentials.
“To address the need for high-priority items and ensure customers are receiving deliveries as quickly as possible, we’ve made a number of adjustments to how our store works,” Amazon told Recode in a statement. “In this case, some of these changes have resulted in an error which, in some cases, resulted in an unintended variation in how we select which offers to feature. We are working to correct it as quickly as possible.”
Amazon has aggressively competed with sellers on its platform for years, going all the way back to its exclusive book-slinging days. From undercutting prices, cribbing cheap basics like towels and computer dongles, and removing (albeit briefly) Prime shipment options, the company’s business is modeled to crush the little guy. Now, as small businesses are more vulnerable than ever, business as usual is just salt in the wound.