Sep 16 2019

WSJ: Amazon changed search results to boost profits despite internal dissent

Brand Name Products and 3P Sellers Are Pushed Down in Search Results

By JON BRODKIN, Ars Technica

Amazon changed its search algorithm in ways that boost its own products despite concerns raised by employees who opposed the move, The Wall Street Journal reported today.

The change was made late last year and was "contested internally," the WSJ reported. People who worked on the project told the WSJ that "Amazon optimized the secret algorithm that ranks listings so that instead of showing customers mainly the most-relevant and best-selling listings when they search—as it had for more than a decade—the site also gives a boost to items that are more profitable for the company."

The goal was to favor Amazon-made products as well as third-party products that rank high in "what the company calls 'contribution profit,' considered a better measure of a product's profitability because it factors in non-fixed expenses such as shipping and advertising, leaving the amount left over to cover Amazon's fixed costs," the WSJ said.

Amazon made the change indirectly, the WSJ reported. Instead of adding profitability into the algorithm itself, Amazon changed the algorithm to prioritize factors that correlate with profitability, the article said.

When contacted by Ars, Amazon said it does not optimize the ranking of its search results for profitability.

The Wall Street Journal has it wrong. We explained at length that their 'scoop' from unnamed sources was not factually accurate, but they went ahead with the story anyway. The fact is that we have not changed the criteria we use to rank search results to include profitability. We feature the products customers will want, regardless of whether they are our own brands or products offered by our selling partners. As any store would do, we consider the profitability of the products we list and feature on the site, but it is just one metric and not in any way a key driver of what we show customers.

Continue Reading at Ars Technica.

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