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What is the Amazon Buy Box and Why You Need it?

October 13, 2023

In the first in our series of articles debunking the mysteries of how Amazon works, we’re looking at the Amazon Buy Box, perhaps the most mysterious gizmo of all.

We often hear the woeful cry from sellers “Why can’t I sell my own products?".

If you’re feeling like you’ve been cast adrift in the cold, harsh Siberian landscape that can be the world of Amazon, the Amazon Buy Box looms large like the Holy Grail, that unobtainable thing that will be the key to an eCommerce life eternal.

And the truth is, you’re probably right, without the Buy Box you’re unlikely to succeed as 82% of all sales go through this mysterious little piece of magic.


Ok, so what is it and how do I get it?

It’s not that simple, let me explain a little:

Imagine you’re playing that game where there’s a barrel of water with lots of plastic ducks floating on the surface, each with a little eyelet screwed into its back.

You hold in your hand a bendy stick that has a bit of string with a hook tied to one end; your job is to try to catch a duck and lift it clear of the water.

Sounds easy? Maybe, but bear in mind the rings on the ducks backs are different sizes, the ducks weigh differently, and there are what seem to be waves on the surface of the water that gently pull the ducks out of reach every time you get your hook in the optimum position.

And, the owners of the ducks (yes, the ducks have real owners) have four pedals each that impact on duck size, duck weight, duck stability in the water, and attractiveness to the eye of the duck hunter.

This is the Buy Box, an algorithmically driven methodology that enables a buyer to buy a single product from a single seller.

The Buy Box is necessary because most products on Amazon are not unique and 1000’s of sellers sell the same products, and there has to be some way to differentiate between them.

We’re all used to seeing the buy box panel on the right when we’re shopping on Amazon, but you will also sometimes see a screen with a different panel on the right that says ‘available from these sellers’.

This is the screen you see when looking at a new listing for the first time, and you haven’t fulfilled the criteria necessary to compete for the Buy Box.

So, how do I get to compete for the Buy Box?

There are essentially three criteria you, as a seller, have to meet to compete, and I emphasise compete because there is never a time when you can guarantee to have the buy box:

  • Eligibility You have to be eligible. You can check this in your Amazon Seller Central account but you have to have had an account for between 2 and 6 months and have had high levels of performance e.g. good stock levels, good customer service, and good sales. Essentially Amazon want to know you know what you’re doing and can service customers the Amazon way.

  • New or Used To be eligible for the regular buy box items have to be new, although there is a buy box derivative for used products called the ‘buy used box’.

  • Availability There must be available stock of the item you are trying to sell. If the item is not in stock, you won’t be eligible for the Buy Box. The Buy Box will not feature your product as out of stock, rather it will just rotate the Buy Box to feature another seller’s product. So careful stock management becomes another kind of sub-criteria.

Well, there it is, a minefield with a pretty clear path to the safety of massive sales.

With this mystery solved we wish you good luck in your Amazon endeavours, and if you need any help please reach out and let us know what you need.


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About the Author

James Wakefield is an Amazon Vendor expert and the founder of WAKE Commerce.

Having been involved in the internet since year dot (com), James established WAKE in 2015 to share his passion for data, branding and online retail strategy.

Since then, WAKE has helped leading consumer brands build a more profitable relationship with Amazon, navigate the many complexities of the platform and scale their business on the world’s biggest marketplace.

With a particular focus on Vendor Central, James consults with scaling businesses that want to make Amazon work for their brand.