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How the Buy Box Works on Amazon, Walmart, and eBay

This is a guest post from Hannah Jennings-Voykovich. Hannah is the Content Strategist at SellerActive, which specializes in multi-channel listing management and automated repricing technology for eCommerce businesses.

The world’s best online marketplaces utilize a powerful little piece of real estate called the Buy Box to capture sales. Buy Boxes differ by marketplace, but every one of them has something in common: behind every “Add to Cart” or “Buy it Now” click lies a seller. Which seller gets to own this space on any given listing changes often due to a number of different factors, not least of which is competition. On Amazon alone, Buy Boxes account for 82% of sales.

On Amazon, Walmart and select items on eBay, a range of factors go into deciding which seller gets to own the Buy Box. Algorithms differ by marketplace, but there are a few commonalities. Here’s our guide to marketplace Buy Boxes: what they have in common, what makes them special, and what tools you’ll need to succeed at winning the Buy Box game.

Amazon Buy Box: A complicated calculation

Amazon’s secret Buy Box algorithm appears to be significantly more complex than other marketplaces. Sellers who try to optimize their listings for Amazon regularly run into algorithm changes, inconsistencies between categories, and frustrated feelings when Amazon—acting as a seller—beats them to the Buy Box.

However, there are a few key factors that we know Amazon’s Buy Box algorithm takes into account: pricing, stock levels, speedy fulfillment and customer satisfaction, to name a few.

Walmart Buy Box: Simple, with a twist

As Walmart has grown as an eCommerce marketplace, so has the sophistication of its Buy Box algorithm. For a long time, sellers worked to capture the attention of Walmart.com’s 100 million monthly visitors by having the lowest possible price on their items, but now, Walmart’s algorithm appears to encompass a few factors, including competitive pricing, inventory, and fast shipping tags.

eBay Buy Box: From single listings to PBSE

While every listing on eBay has a “Buy it Now” box, only listings included in eBay’s Product-Based Shopping Experience (PBSE) are set up with a competitive Buy Box whereby multiple sellers have offers feeding into the same product page.

Above: eBay’s traditional experience. Below: eBay PBSE.

Phase 1 of PBSE covers very few categories: cell phones, programmable thermostats and air purifiers to name a few. When buyers search for PBSE products, they’ll be taken to a grouped listing page. Like Amazon and Walmart, one seller owns the Buy Box, while others’ prices are viewable by clicking “See all X listings.”

PBSE’s limited capabilities make it difficult to nail down eBay’s precise Buy Box algorithm, but we do know a couple of things for sure: you have a better chance of selling PBSE items if you connect them to the grouped listing page, and competitive pricing definitely improves your chances of winning PBSE Buy Boxes.

How to Win the Buy Box

As you can see, while Buy Box algorithms differ by marketplace, there are a few uniting factors. If you’re angling to capture more Buy Boxes across the board, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Competitive Pricing

Marketplaces: Amazon, Walmart, eBay PBSE

Amazon, Walmart and eBay tend to favor sellers who offer their products up for the lowest possible price, plus the lowest estimated shipping cost. Pricing doesn’t have to be a race to the bottom, however. Repricing software strategies can not only help you capture more Buy Boxes, they can also help you maximize profit by automatically raise your prices back up once you’ve achieved your goal.

Note: Many marketplaces price-match, and if they discover you’re selling the same item for a lower price on another marketplace, your listings could be at risk of being de-listed.

Stock levels

Marketplaces: Amazon, Walmart

All marketplaces want to meet the needs of their website visitors, and that means ensuring that sellers have enough stock to sell customers. There’s strong evidence that Amazon and Walmart reward sellers who keep a healthy amount of stock available with a higher likelihood of capturing the Buy Box. Furthermore, Amazon favors FBA sellers who have stock available in their fulfillment centers (as opposed to stock that’s on its way).

Speedy fulfillment

Marketplaces: Amazon, Walmart

On Walmart, research shows that fast shipping options are growing in importance when it comes to Buy Box ownership. Recently, a Deliverr client and Walmart seller was able to capture the Buy Box by simply just enabling fast shipping tags. Similarly, SellerActive’s automated repricing research suggests that sellers who have 2-Day Shipping tags enabled can reprice their items up to $1 more expensive than their competitors, and still capture the Buy Box.

Meanwhile, Amazon wants to encourage sellers to use FBA services, and as such, Buy Box algorithms favor sellers who use the service. For sellers who fulfill orders themselves, Buy Box ownership is still possible, so long as an impeccable record of fast shipping is kept up.

Customer Satisfaction

Marketplaces: Amazon

Customer Experience Score also appears to factor into Amazon’s Buy Box algorithm, especially for sellers who fulfill orders in-house. To ensure your Customer Experience Score stays high, you will need to keep certain metrics low (such as order defect rate and return dissatisfaction rate), and others high (such as response time and valid tracking data).

Tools for Winning More Buy Boxes

Capturing the Buy Box on multiple online marketplaces can be a challenge, but luckily there are a number of tools on the market that can make Buy Box ownership an easy and regular part of your workflow. Here are our top picks:

Multi-channel management software

Buy Box algorithms want to make sure that sellers have plenty of available stock, and multi-channel management software like SellerActive can help you set minimum and maximum stock buffers. Buffers ensure you have just the right number of items for sale on each marketplace at any given time.

Automated repricing strategies

Repricing strategies are a seller’s best friend when it comes to competitive pricing. Set a repricing strategy that focuses on Buy Box ownership, and let your repricer automatically and regularly adjust your pricing until your listing captures the top spot. Repricing software can also help you mirror prices across all major marketplaces, which can save you from sites like Walmart unpublishing your listings for non-compliance.

Use fulfillment services

Now that the Walmart Buy Box is favoring sellers who are part of their 2-Day Shipping program, it’s more important than ever to ensure your company’s fulfillment is second-to-none. By choosing to work with a fulfillment company like Deliverr, you can not only delight your customers with fast order fulfillment, you can also better your chances of winning the Buy Box on all-important marketplaces like Walmart.

Want to learn more? Sign up for a webinar with SellerActive, Walmart and Deliverr to find out how SellerActive sellers can get on Walmart Free 2-Day Shipping.

About SellerActive: SellerActive is a multi-channel management platform that helps eCommerce businesses grow their product reach. Easily build a centralized product catalog, bulk upload new listings to multiple channels, and use automated repricing technology to set pricing rules that can help capture the Buy Box an average of 72% of the time. Backed with live support from a team of eCommerce experts, SellerActive can help you automate manual tasks, expand your online presence, and grow your business.

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