Amazon Levels the Playing Field for Sellers a Little Bit
By Ina Steiner
Amazon sellers who want to make sales know how important it is to get exposure by appearing on the Buy Box, but that prime real estate is reserved for Featured Merchants only. For sellers who are not Featured Merchants on Amazon, the Offer Listing page is their only shot at making a sale.
Seven weeks ago, Amazon made a change in how Featured Merchants are listed the Offer Listing page. Sellers have debated the impact of that change and wonder if it has "leveled the playing field" for non-featured merchants - it certainly puts price front and center for shoppers.
The Offer Listing page is the page that shows the offers from all sellers of a particular product - if you click on "more buying choices" on a Product Detail page, you're taken to the offers page. Some shoppers never visit the offers page, instead clicking the Add to Cart button on the Product page, or only perusing offers on the "Buy Box," which are limited to Featured Merchants only.
In fact, Appeagle CEO Koby Kasnett said, "Our experience shows us that only the most savvy consumer knows what the offer page is and how to get to it. The overwhelming majority of consumers will simply rely on the offer that Amazon presents within the Buy Box."
But for those shoppers who do click on the more buying choices link on product pages, Amazon is now presenting a single list for customers that includes all offers sorted by price, the company announced.
Kasnett explained that previously, the Offer Listing page would display all of the offers from Featured merchants grouped together at the top of the page, and underneath it, all of the offers from non-featured sellers. With this change, all offers are grouped together, regardless of the status of the merchant.
From a buyer's perspective, this change makes their buying choice all about price, rather than the seller's status, Kasnett said. However, "since the overwhelming majority of consumers never even hit the Offer Listing Page, being a Featured Merchant remains the most important factor in getting sales."
So why did Amazon make this change? Feedvisor Director of Marketing Shmuli Goldberg said Amazon realizes that buyers who are looking for more buying options are essentially looking for a better deal. "All Amazon are doing here is making easier and clearer for these buyers to find what they are looking for. "
It also fixes a fundamental flaw in the Amazon system, Goldberg believes, by making it easier for new sellers. "With the new system, if a new merchant can sell at a competitive price, they will make sales. Once they've made those sales and have provided great customer service, they will get Buy Box eligibility, meaning they can then make more sales, and often at a higher price, through the Buy Box itself."
And, he said, it forces established sellers to be even more price conscious, which encourages competition that is ultimately better for buyers.
If you've never heard of a "featured merchant," here is Amazon's definition: "Featured Merchants are Professional sellers who have met performance-based requirements. There is no additional fee for being a Featured Merchant, and sellers must maintain their performance levels in order to retain the status of Featured Merchant. Sellers with Featured Merchant status gain placement advantages for their listings on Amazon.com."
To put the impact of the change into perspective, Appeagle's Kasnett said, "It barely affects featured merchants at all, non-featured merchants will benefit slightly by the small number of consumers that hit the Offer Listing Page, looking for the absolute lowest price." And, he said, "Amazon has always focused on price, with this change they have made it easier to identify the lowest price while maintaining the Buy Box which is still their choice for the best buying experience."
He said bottom line, merchants need to know that Featured Merchant status still very much exists and is still the biggest factor when capturing sales and consideration for Buy Box placement.
And Feedvisor's Goldberg said, "Considering that over $19 Billion dollars of third party sales went through the Buy Box last year, any seller that wants to take a slice of this pie, so to speak, has to ensure they have Buy Box eligibility. The seller requirements to get this status are exactly the same as before."
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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