Rigged: Investigation Finds Amazon Brands and Exclusives Hold Top Spot in 7 Out of 10 Product Searches
According to a recent report, e-commerce giant Amazon purposefully ranks its own products above other higher-rated competitors on its platform. According to an investigation by the Markup, “We found that knowing only whether a product was an Amazon brand or exclusive could predict in seven out of every 10 cases whether Amazon would place it first in search results.”
Breitbart News recently reported that according to internal documents, e-commerce giant Amazon has been developing knockoff products and manipulating search results to promote its own product lines. Documents show that the company’s private-brands team in India exploited internal data obtained from its marketplace in the country to identify popular products sold by other companies and then create copies to compete against them.
Amazon Employee, Warehouse (Ross D. Franklin/AP)
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy (Isaac Brekken/AP)
Now, the Markup reports that Amazon sellers in the United States are describing similar experiences. The Markup spoke to Robert Gomez, the founder of the Atlanta-based consumer goods startup 4Q Brands and the owner of the Kaffe coffee grinder brand. Gomez claimed that after refining photos and descriptions of his coffee grinder, amazing positive reviews, and paying the e-commerce giant $40,000 a month in advertising, his product finally became top-ranked on Amazon’s platform.
However, Amazon then introduced its own competing coffee grinders from its house brand Amazon Basics and another from a brand that sells exclusively on Amazon, DR Mills. Gomez stated that the items from the other brands ranked well immediately, appearing amount the top-three results for “coffee grinder” on the platform. Gomez stated: “Their search ranking is high because they’re an Amazon brand.” In fact, an investigation by the Markup found that Amazon brands and exclusives held the top spot in seven out of ten product searches.
The Markup writes:
An investigation by The Markup found that Amazon places products from its house brands and products exclusive to the site ahead of those from competitors—even competitors with higher customer ratings and more sales, judging from the volume of reviews.
We found that knowing only whether a product was an Amazon brand or exclusive could predict in seven out of every 10 cases whether Amazon would place it first in search results. These listings are not visibly marked as “sponsored” and they are part of a grid that Amazon identifies as “search results” in the site’s source code. (We only analyzed products in that grid, ignoring modules that are strictly for advertising.)
The Markup found Amazon placed its Happy Belly Cinnamon Crunch cereal, with four stars and 1,010 reviews, in the number one spot ahead of cereals with better and more reviews including Cap’n Crunch (five stars, 14,069 reviews), Honey Bunches of Oats (five stars, 5,205 reviews), and Honey Nut Cheerios (five stars, 11,702 reviews). A vacuum cleaner from Amazon’s exclusive Noisz brand was placed on top, ahead of models from Bissell, Eureka, and Hoover with higher ratings and more reviews. And the Amazon-exclusive Concept 3sneaker from Skechers placed number one, four spots ahead of a similar but not exclusive to Amazon Skechers sneaker with the same star rating but 77 times more reviews.
The Markup’s investigation found that Amazon-branded products overall receive an outsized portion of top spots in search results, completely out of line with their proportion of the sample.
Read more at the Markup here.