Navigating the Amazon Buy Box

Navigating the Amazon Buy Box

Growing up, we learn to crawl, we learn to walk, we learn to make purchases on Amazon - sometimes not even in that order. These days, navigating an Amazon store page is as ingrained into the fabric of our day-to-day as brushing our teeth or binge-watching a series on Netflix. If there is something we need, we look to Amazon.

While their website is designed to make getting what we need as easy as possible, there is still much about how Amazon works that remains a mystery to most users. That is where we come in.

In this blog, we hope to shed some light on the more obscure parts of the Amazon process, with the intention of equipping you with the knowledge you need to ensure you get the item you’re looking for on your terms. Here, we will cover ways in which you can navigate the buy box on an Amazon product page. We will also cover how to look at the different third-party sellers on a given listing, along with how to choose which you’d like to purchase from.

At this point, most of us understand the function of the “Add to Cart” and “Buy now with 1-Click” buttons on Amazon. We understand how to purchase and receive items from Amazon, but what a lot of us tend to overlook is where these items are coming from.

We’ve included a screenshot as an example of how to tell where your purchase is coming from. This is the page for a Snap Supply bake element. Within the outlined box we have added to the screenshot, you will see that this item is “In Stock” and “Sold by Snap Supply and fulfilled by Amazon.”

There are a few things to note here. Because this item is sold by Snap Supply, we say that Snap Supply has the “buy box” for this particular item. What this means is that when you click that “Add to Cart” button, you tell Amazon that you would like to order this item from Snap Supply.

Even though there are other sellers that you could potentially purchase from, because Snap Supply has the buy box, they are the ones who you are buying from when you click that “Add to Cart” button.

The winner of the buy box is determined algorithmically, meaning that Amazon’s algorithm is in charge of determining which seller gets the buy box. Because the requirements for winning the buy box change frequently, it is oftentimes difficult to determine why one seller is in the buy box instead of another.

Because of these constantly shifting rules, sometimes the seller with the buy box may not be the best option. In a later blog post, we will provide some tips about how to spot a suspicious seller.  

Because we have seen that the shipping on this item is “fulfilled by Amazon,” we know that Snap Supply stores their items in Amazon fulfillment centers. It should be noted that, while the shipping on this item is fulfilled by Amazon, you are purchasing this item from a Snap Supply. Snap Supply is a third-party seller, meaning that while they are selling items on Amazon, they are not Amazon. You will find that this is the case for a large majority of items sold on Amazon. Once you place your order, Amazon is then in charge of shipping.


Here is another example. This is the page for a GE brand bake element. However, when we take a look at the outlined box, we see that this item is sold by the third-party seller “Joe Schmoe's.” We can also see that this item does not include the “shipping fulfilled by Amazon” indicator, which tells us that this item will be shipped from the seller Joe Schmoe's without any direct involvement from Amazon. What this means is that the seller is fully responsible for shipping the product. We can also see this page includes the phrase “Usually ships within 2 to 5 days.” This grants the seller a large window of time to ship the item. Amazon is not involved in the shipment of this product.

So what does this tell us? Because Amazon’s product pages are sometimes confusing, it is easy for a lot of customers to assume that, because they are ordering a GE product from Amazon, they will be receiving a GE product shipped from Amazon. As we can see from this example, this is often not the case. However, there is no reason to think that the seller Joe Schmoe's will not deliver the item as it is described in the amount of time they have stated. We will cover ways to tell if a seller is suspicious in a later blog.

Typically, there are more sellers on a product page than the seller with the buy box. In order for us to see the other sellers on a given page, we can click the “Used & new” button to find a list of all the sellers with listings on the product page.

On this list, we can see that Amazon Warehouse offers used versions of these items, but Snap Supply has the lowest price for the new items. (Just because a seller has the lowest price does not mean that they will have the buy box, or even that they’re the best seller - we will cover this a future blog post). Not only that, we can see that Snap Supply has the Amazon Prime logo. This means that because the shipping is fulfilled by Amazon, Prime members who make the purchase will receive the Prime benefits. Notice how the other sellers do not have the “fulfillment by Amazon” windows, nor do they have the Prime logo.

In this case, it seems as if Snap Supply is the best option. However, the seller who has the buy box may not always be the ideal option. Notice that you can “Add to cart” on any of these options. In another blog, we will cover different methods you can use to identify if a seller is suspicious or not.

Knowledge like this can help you to make changes to your Amazon shopping that can drastically improve your experience. Understanding how to identify the third-party sellers from Amazon itself, and how the buy box works, is a good place to start when it comes to becoming an informed and knowledgeable Amazon shopper.

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