Advanced Buy Box Considerations

As a general rule, if a seller has an opportunity to quickly jump to a higher bracket for any one metric, this should always be preferred over spending a large amount of resources moving between brackets in another metric.

For example, let’s assume a seller currently has an average Customer Response Time of less than 14 hours, and a Shipping Time of 7 days.

If the seller improves their response time to less than 12 hours, they will move up a bracket, which will have a very positive effect on their Buy Box share.

Conversely, to jump a bracket in Shipping Time, the seller would have to reduce their Shipping Time from 7 days to 2 days, which could be significantly more expensive.

Fulfillment Method

Buy Box impact: Very High

The most important variable considered by Amazon is whether the item is fulfilled by the merchant or by Amazon (FBA).

Amazon considers their own fulfillment service to have perfect scores for multiple variables, including Shipping Time, On-Time Delivery Rate and Inventory Depth, making it much more likely for merchants who use their fulfillment services to win the Buy Box.

Although a Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM) seller can beat a Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA) seller to the Buy Box, the FBM seller has to have very high relative scores in all areas and/or a very low price to do so.

For that reason, choosing Fulfillment by Amazon is the quickest and easiest way to drastically improve the chances of winning the Buy Box. Ultimately though, this has to be a strategic business decision for the seller, as it has many other implications and can significantly eat into the seller’s overall profit margin if the decision has not been thought through and planned properly.

A product’s Fulfillment Method can be seen on the Offer Listing Page.

Landed Price

Buy Box impact: High

The total amount that the product is sold for on Amazon. This includes shipping in the US, and shipping and VAT in the UK and Europe.

A lower landed price will increase the seller’s Buy Box share. This is arguably the easiest variable to manipulate, as it is the only element that the seller can control directly AND instantly.

Price is certainly key to winning the Buy Box. However, on its own, it is not enough.

If the seller’s overall performance metrics are inferior to those of the competition, then the seller will need to lower the price of the product to gain a greater share of the Buy Box. The lower these metrics are, relative to the competing sellers, the lower the seller needs to drop the price in order to compete for the Buy Box.

Conversely, the higher the seller’s performance metrics are in relation to the competition for a specific product, the higher the seller can raise their price and still hold on to a healthy share of the Buy Box. This can be seen as the “dollar value” of improving customer experience. A higher Seller Rating and lower Order Defect Rate means the same item can be sold at a higher cost and maintain the same share of the Buy Box.

A product’s Landed Price can be seen on the Amazon product page as Follows:

Seller Rating

Buy Box impact: High

The overall score of customer experience when buying products from a seller. A high Seller Rating is vital because of the significant effect it has on the Buy Box.

For every order fulfilled without any problem, the seller receives 100 points. An extra 10 points are awarded for orders that Amazon deem perfect. 110 points is therefore the maximum score that a seller can receive for each order. If there is a problem or issue however, such as delayed shipping, the seller cancelling the order, or the customer leaving negative feedback, then zero or even a negative score is given.

Orders with minor problems, such as late shipments, receive zero points, while orders with moderate problems, such as order cancellations, receive -100 points, and orders with major problems, such as negative feedback, will receive -500 points. Note that if an order has multiple issues, only the strongest negative score is counted.

The average of all these scores is defined as a percentage and called Seller Rating. Only orders placed within the last 365 days count towards the score. However, orders from the last 90 days have a greater effect on a seller’s total score.

When comparing sellers for the Buy Box, Amazon group sellers by several rating brackets. Note that these are different from the way that Amazon group these scores in the Amazon Seller Central dashboard.

Metrics over Time

Since many metrics are judged over a period of time (Days, Weeks or Months) this can often be used to the seller’s advantage.

For example, if a seller’s 90 day Order Defect Rate is not great, yet in the last 30 days they have not received a single negative feedback, claim or chargeback, they can comfortably “wait out” the low score, as once the history changes their Buy Box share will increase.

This works both ways, though. If a seller has several claims against them in the last 30 days, meaning their ODR has increased, they should do everything they can to ensure that no other claims are made against them in the coming weeks to mitigate the negative effect it could have on the Buy Box share.

The Buy Box groups are:

  • 100-98%
  • 97-95%
  • 94-90%
  • 89-80%
  • 79-70%
  • Less than 70%

Although any improvement in the Seller Rating will have a positive effect, jumping from one bracket to another will have a more significant effect on the Buy Box share than moving within the brackets themselves. For example, improving one’s Seller Rating from 94% to 95% would give a greater comparative bump in the Buy Box share that moving from 95% to 96%.

If one’s Seller Rating is less than 70%, there is very little chance that they will be able to win the Buy Box at all, even with other low rating sellers competing for the same product.

We also want to remind all of you perfectionists out there that 100% Seller Rating is not necessary….in fact if you slip to 98%, nothing happens to your likelihood of getting sales. While we want you to take care of all of your customers, don’t drive yourself crazy over a few crazy customers, and don’t overinvest your time trying to maintain a 100% rating that may help your ego but doesn’t impact your seller account (as long as you stay within the 98%-100% range).

Shipping Time

Buy Box impact: High

The simplest metric looked at by the Buy Box is the time in which the seller promises to ship the item to the customer.
For certain time-critical products and categories, such as birthday cards and perishable goods, the impact of this metric on the Buy Box will be even higher, since customers often demand swift shipping on such items.

Shipping Time is arranged into several brackets:

  • 0-2 days
  • 3-7 days
  • 8-13 days
  • 14 or more days

*Days refers to business days, and does not include Saturdays or Sundays.

Jumping between the brackets will have a greater significance than moving within them. For example, if a seller improves their Shipping Time from 6 days to 3 days, they may see a small increase in their Buy Box share. However, improving it from 3 days to 2 days will have a much greater effect.

Order Defect Rate (ODR)

Buy Box impact: Medium

A combination of three different metrics:

  • The Negative Feedback Rate
  • The A-to-Z Guarantee Claim Rate
  • The Service Chargeback Rate

Amazon adds these three numbers together to work out the percentage of the defective orders that were sent. It groups these orders into two categories,

  1. Short Term — those orders placed between 17 and 77 days ago, and
  2. Long Term — those placed between 32 and 122 days ago. Orders placed in the last 17 days are disregarded, as there has not been enough time to gather enough customer complaints.

While this score only has a medium level impact on the Buy Box algorithm, sellers with more than 1% ODR in the Long Term or Short Term categories are significantly penalized. This number should always be kept below 1% to have a serious chance of winning the Buy Box. E

Feedback Score: The culmination of all the feedback that a seller has received from customers and is grouped by the last 30 days, 90 days and 365 days. The most recent feedback has the greatest effect on the Buy Box.

Buy Box impact: Medium

This is the culmination of all the feedback that a seller has received from customers and is grouped by the last 30 days, 90 days and 365 days.

Two of the most difficult metrics for a seller to boost, are Feedback Score and Feedback Count. This is because, unlike other metrics which can be controlled by the seller, feedback relies entirely on the buyer taking action.

Since receiving good feedback is crucial for a seller who wants to compete for the Buy Box, encouraging positive feedback and removing negative feedback are two key things a seller should do.

Sellers can encourage buyers to leave feedback in a number of ways.

  • They can add a cute, quirky feedback request message to the packaging slip in the order.
  • They can also contact the buyer directly, via the Contact Buyer link in the Manage Orders section of Seller Central.
  • Or we recommend that they use a feedback solicitation tool to automatically request feedback from customers after completed purchases.

*Newer sellers who do not yet have a lot of feedback, can quickly and easily increase their Feedback Count by selling a couple of popular and inexpensive items. This will raise the seller’s chances of making more sales, which is in turn likely to increase the amount of sellers who will leave feedback, and to more sales, and around and around.

A seller should always try to work with the buyer to get negative feedback removed. This may require issuing a refund, sending a replacement item or giving them a complimentary gift certificate. Once the customer’s problem is resolved, the seller can ask them to remove the negative feedback. But remember that you can get into a lot of account trouble if you are caught explicitly offering to pay a customer for removing bad feedback or for leaving positive feedback.

Working on feedback will not only impact a seller’s Feedback Score and Feedback Count, but it will also positively affect their Seller Rating and Order Defect Rate metrics.

Delivery Time & Rate

Buy Box impact: Medium
The Buy Box takes into consideration three separate elements regarding delivery. Each one is grouped according to the last 7 days, 30 days and 90 days:

  • On-time delivery
  • Late shipment rate
  • Tracked delivery rate

On-time delivery: This is the percentage of orders that buyers received by the estimated delivery date. This number is based on confirmed tracking information. A score of less than 97% will have a strong negative effect on the Buy Box.

Late shipment rate: This is the number of orders shipped 3 or more days later than promised, divided by the number of orders (in the last 7, 30 or 90 days). A score of more than 4% will have a strong negative effect on the Buy Box.

Note: Even though shipping the order 1 or 2 days later than promised will not affect a seller’s late shipment rate, it will affect their Seller Rating. It is ideal and recommended therefore to ship by the date promised to the seller.

Tracked delivery rate: This is the percentage of deliveries sent with full tracking information. A score of less than 98% will have a negative effect on the Buy Box.

Customer Response Time

Buy Box impact: Medium
Amazon looks at this metric in two ways.

  1. It checks the average response time for the last 7, 30 and 90 days, and compares these times to competing sellers.
  2. It then also creates four brackets for messages received in these time periods, grouping them by their reply times as follows:
    1. Messages replied to within 12 hours
    2. Messages replied to within 24 hours
    3. Messages replied to after 24 hours
    4. Messages never replied to

*If over 10% of messages were replied to after 24 hours, or never replied to, the chances of the seller winning the Buy Box will severely decrease.

It is important to note that responses to every customer message (even customer replies) are included in these statistics, so it is important to respond to each one.

Auto replies sent are not counted as responses, but checking the “Mark as no response needed” box in the reply area within
24 hours will discount this message from the total metric, having neither a positive or negative affect.

Note that the 12 hour bracket is not shown but is still counted.

Feedback Count

Buy Box impact: Medium

The total number of buyers that have given the seller feedback. Feedback Count is now considered a key metric in and of itself, and sellers with a high score are more likely to win the Buy Box over a seller with a low score, all other metrics being equal. SALES VOLUME


Buy Box impact: Low

Amazon will not award the Buy Box to someone who is frequently out of stock of a product. Amazon prefers to give the Buy Box to sellers who have enough inventory to deal with the increased demand that the Buy Box may create. For that reason, sellers with a larger current inventory, consistent sales, and a strong stock history may be granted a greater Buy Box share.

The strength of the stock history is determined by how much time in the last 30 and 90 days the seller has been out of stock of this item. However, historical stock amounts do not seem to be taken into account.

Even if a seller maintains a low stock level, they will be preferred over a perfectly equal competitive seller who has big fluctuations in stock quantity and frequently goes out of stock.

These metrics have not been proven to have a strong effect on the Buy Box when compared to other, higher-impact metrics. They may be used to distinguish between sellers who have very similar performance ratings, and/or are bidding on very popular products, although we have not seen any strong proof of this.

This metric is hidden and cannot be seen in the Amazon Seller Central.

Please note that this variable is not related to the Buy Box requirement of “availability”. A seller can only win the Buy Box if the item is currently in stock.

Order Cancellation Rate

Buy Box impact: Low

This is the number of orders cancelled by the seller pre-fulfillment, and the number of orders refunded to the customer post-fulfillment. While a positive score does not have a strong impact on the Buy Box share, a pre-fulfillment Cancellation Rate greater than 2.5% will have a strong negative effect.