Amazon sellers: Amazon ranking is screwing your sales

What makes an inventor is an ability to notice real-world issues, even when they do not seem obvious, and then create a solution that will fix those problems. This is a story about one such event.

In November 2016, I published my first book, and that led me to notice things I wouldn’t notice otherwise. 
 I found something quite curious: a User Interface fault embedded inside of the Amazon store that works against all of Amazon’s writers and sellers, with the exception of those who are already on the top.

So, what is it?

When you go to Amazon’s product categories, you will find that each product can belong to multiple categories under the section “Amazon Best Sellers Rank.”

Ironically, the first time I discovered this error, I clicked on the category that has word “Inequality” in its name. As you can see, the rank number for that specific item is #109. Remember that for later.

When you click on the category, you will find that the page shows only the first 20 items, and that you can only access the first 100. Bummer. My book “System Upgrade v2.016” is not on the list. I have missed the first hundred by 9 places.

Then, I return to the first page, and I noticed something really strange.

The Amazon ranking system is showing the same books (items) multiple times!

My first thought was, “I must have done something wrong,” but, no, it was there. In the page of what should have been 20 unique titles, they were showing only half of that. Check the list of 40 items or two consecutive pages:

If you carefully examine the list, you will notice that some of the books are listed 3 and sometimes even 4 times (like the book “The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap”). In the list of what should be 40 titles, there are only 25 unique books — that is 62.5%.
 In the top 100 list, there are only 63 books?!

How will that personally impact the writer (or seller)?

So, if you are the unlucky guy like the author mentioned above, with number #109, your book — along with 36 others — will never manage to get on the list. But, this is not all: this is applicable to every category on Amazon. Almost every product category suffers from the same issue. If you check the product list, you will notice that there are many products that occur two or more times, just depending on the colour of the product.

Yes, it is unfair, and it is wrong, but why are they doing it? Has anyone noticed the issue?

Well, there is a simple reason: all those “same” products are a bit different. Books, for instance, have different mediums (paper, audio, kindle…), and, depending on those, regardless of the fact that the content is the same, they have different prices. The same rule can be applied for other products that have a different colour or size.

So, because of those small differences, they cannot aggregate what is obviously the same product under one “slot,” or is it?

This issue can be fixed in a surprisingly simple way.

As you may have already noticed, the same books already share the same review ratings, so there is no reason they cannot share other things.

Medium wise or colour wise, information can be excluded entirely from the title, as it does not have any practical value for the buyer — not even statistically speaking. After clicking on the product title, the buyer will get an option to choose which type of medium he desires.

Price can be hidden completely — or shown as a range, like “$5.43 to $12.21,” once the user clicks on a link — On the main product page, he will have a choice between prices that are fitting for him.

What about images? Well, always select the first one (Top 1), and, when the user chooses different product types, he will get those other images, as well.

This is hugely important and has to be fixed, because the impact is quite large. Behavioural science has shown that, when users look for something 91.5% of them stay on page 1, only 4.8% go to page 2, and quite a smaller percent goes beyond that. [*1]

So, how difficult should it be to fix this? 
 Actually, it is surprisingly easy: it is just a matter of a different SQL query and a few more things in UI code. Actually, I am quite happy to help Amazon’s fellow developers, if they do not know how to do it on their own.

And, yes, you’re welcome sellers, and you’re welcome Amazon!

If this ever gets implemented, well, remember to help a struggling artist (Me).
Wow, I just realised there are 2 million sellers worldwide on Amazon. If every seller would give me just a $1 or buy my book (in terms of royalties, I would get almost the same amount) in order to thank me for finding this “bug,” I would not need to worry about anything anymore, and I would have enough money to finance all of my other ideas… Yaaaaay!

Sigh, wishful thinking, like that’s ever going to happen!

Notes & References:

  1. The First Page of Google, by the Numbers
    http://www.protofuse.com/blog/first-page-of-google-by-the-numbers/

Gris Anik, Feb 2017; by Originally published at www.grisanik.com.