The Buy Box: Amazon’s most coveted sales tool. Many believe it’s responsible for 90% of all Amazon sales. Virtually all successful Amazon selling strategies aim for it. But how can you hope to take it from more established sellers—or even Amazon itself?
First, you probably want to know what the Buy Box is. I’ve surrounded it with a red rectangle in the image below.
Only one seller can have the Box at a time. Whoever ends up there gets the biggest and most conspicuous “Add to Cart” button on the page. It’s also that seller’s pricing and shipping information that dominate the listing.
The result: most people buy from the seller in the Buy Box as instinctively as they click on the first result in a Google search.
Amazon’s requirements for winning the Buy Box are equal parts strict and vague. You can see them (and learn how to check whether your current listings are eligible) here. In short, you must do four things:
You can’t control how much experience you have on Amazon; for that, you just have to try to sell as much as you can. Working on the other three areas will help with that.
Competing on shipping deserves an article of its own. However, there are a few ecommerce shipping solutions that can dramatically improve your fulfillment capabilities. You can also just use FBA and let Amazon handle your shipping, becoming eligible by default. (Hold that thought for now.)
Pricing deserves not just its own article, but its own degree. It’s virtually impossible for humans to always find the perfect price point for maintaining both Buy Box eligibility and the highest possible profit margins. There are simply too many factors to consider, and we let our emotions get involved far too often.
Using Amazon repricing software that crunches big data is the best way to set all of your prices at the perfect points. Such software automatically adjusts your prices to deal with changes in supply, demand, and competition. Machines really can do the job better than people in this case.
Everything else comes down to the absolute most critical factor: your customer service. Therefore, we’ll spend the rest of the article on item 4:
As with shipping, you can just use FBA to have Amazon take over your customer service and instantly gain Buy Box eligibility on the customer service factors.
It’s nice and easy on the outside. But remember, Amazon’s fees are designed to make money off you using FBA.
To make things more complicated, your customers will need to pay an online sales tax in any state where your goods are housed in an Amazon fulfillment center.
Wouldn’t you rather take the FBA fees home yourself? Wouldn’t you rather keep the sales tax down so you can continue competing on price without cutting into your profits?
You absolutely can win the Box without FBA—if you’re willing to invest in the necessary infrastructure and find the right employees. Here are the challenges you can expect to face, and how you can overcome them:
Knowledge is power. And on Amazon, there are so many rules and systems that many sellers don’t bother to gain the knowledge they need to succeed before diving in. Know the rules and you’ll have a huge edge over those guys.
The most important rule of winning the Buy Box is that you must have a very low order defect rate. That means few negative reviews, A-to-z Guarantee claims, and chargebacks.
Amazon also states that eligibility for the Box depends on “other seller metrics,” which we can assume include their Customer Metrics. (Just ignore the contradictory name. These metrics rate seller performance.)
One of the most important Customer Metrics is the “pre-fulfillment cancellation rate.” If a customer buys something and you cancel the order because you ran out of stock, that counts against you. This shouldn’t happen more than once in a blue moon. If it does, inventory management software like Volo Commerce can automate the process and cut back on human error.
Amazon also tracks customer satisfaction with your return and refund processing. It’s critical to understand both the Amazon return policy and Amazon refund policy so you know exactly what standards you need to meet.
Learn these rules. Then build your customer service around playing by them—and exceeding Amazon’s expectations—to win the Buy Box.
Even more important than knowing the rules is how you interact with your customers. Effective customer communication basically boils down to three things:
Now, you could just have your phone wake you up every time you get an email. Odds are, though, that some of your 3:00 AM customer interactions will go poorly. You need to sleep like anyone else.
Start by creating a customer service team. This might be you and a business partner who works the night shift, or a team of global contractors who answer during standard business hours in their time zones.
Next, you need to work out your messaging infrastructure. Seller Central messaging is often enough if you only sell on Amazon and you have a low volume of support requests. You can even have multiple users on one Amazon account, with specific permissions for each, if you want to field a customer service team there.
Things get more complicated if you also sell on other platforms like eBay or an ecommerce website. The more systems your support team has to use, the slower they become.
You can use Gmail as your Amazon email service and manage support for Amazon and your own site in one place. But its customer service capabilities are limited, critical data in your Amazon messages will arrive in a jumble, and you can’t get messages from other marketplaces like eBay there.
If you want to provide 24/7 customer service for your entire ecommerce operation (which makes a lot more sense than providing it only for Amazon), you’ll want to manage everything from one place. There are currently two ways to do that.
The first option is Zendesk. This award-winning customer relationship management software makes providing customer support way easier with automations and an enormous suite of tools for managing customers and employees alike.
Normally, Zendesk only works with standard email systems (like the one you would have on your own ecommerce website) and gets Amazon messages just as jumbled as Gmail does. But connect it with an Amazon messaging service and it will work like a dream. ChannelReply can do this for you—and it even supports eBay integration.
As with Zendesk, you can combine Desk.com with ChannelReply to provide customer service for eBay and Amazon.
Either way, you’ll have a system that makes complicated customer service situations easy. You’ll be able to manage your international team and support buyers from Amazon, eBay, and your own website from a single screen. This will enable you to provide Buy Box–worthy support no matter how enormous your ecommerce operation becomes.
Having the right tools and knowledge will only get you so far. The rest comes down to how you use them.
Price optimization tools only win the Box if you give them the flexibility to set competitive prices. Offering a million shipping options only helps if you get your packages in the mail quickly and reliably. Even integrating Amazon with Zendesk or Desk.com will only make a difference if you provide exceptional customer service.
Ultimately, winning the Buy Box depends on the answer to one question: do you work harder than anyone else to make your customers happy?