The Pros and Cons of Amazon’s Choice Rating

Both Amazon sellers and shoppers are becoming increasingly familiar with the “Amazon’s Choice” badge that has been popping up all over the platform, dichotomizing specific products from others within a category. As an increasing number of products begin to flaunt the logo, the badge has become more visible and influential over purchasing decisions.

However, what does “Amazon’s Choice” mean exactly? How does Amazon select the products that tout the insignia? Do humans choose the items or is it left to the company’s algorithm? What criteria is used to determine what constitutes a “Choice” product?

Until recently, the “Amazon’s Choice” selection process has been shrouded in mystery. People got a small peek behind the curtain thanks to Amazon shedding some light on why certain products were selected; however, many (if not all) of the explanatory breakdowns have since been removed.

Currently, the only knowledge people have of how the “Amazon’s Choice” distinction is awarded is a small mouseover that reads:

“Amazon’s Choice recommends highly rated, well-priced products available to ship immediately.”

Amazon Choice

To understand more about this enigmatic emblem, we are going to explore the badge’s roots, known selection criteria and optimization techniques. However, we will also dig into the inherently problematic aspects of the “Amazon’s Choice” prestige that force us to ask:

Is Amazon’s Choice rating all it’s cracked up to be?

Amazon’s Choice: The Beginning

When the Amazon Echo smart speaker was first released to the public, consumers were only capable of re-ordering products they had already bought from Amazon’s marketplace.

The following year, Amazon released an algorithmic update that changed that, enabling consumers to utilize the device to buy items unique to a customer’s purchase history. This update was how and why Amazon implemented its “Choice” marker.

When consumers would command Alexa to “search for [specific product],” the AI assistant would first sift through the customer’s order history to potentially identify any Prime-eligible products to return. If located, this would be the product that Alexa would recommend. However, if no match existed, Amazon would surface the “Amazon’s Choice” product for that category. Finally, if no distinction had been awarded, Alexa would defer to the top-ranking Prime item related to the search.

Since this change was made in 2015, Amazon has implemented the tag throughout its website and mobile application. But, how are products selected for the perceived honor?

How Amazon Claims to Make Its Selections

Based on the parameters indicated by Amazon itself through the mouseover function on the “Amazon’s Choice” badge, it seems that the retailer selects based on several different reference points:

  • Highly-rated
  • Well-priced
  • Available to ship immediately

Regarding highly-rated items, this benchmark seems to be inherently flawed given the massive issues Amazon has had with fake reviews.

As far as a product’s pricing and availability are concerned, this should be expected given that Amazon’s Buy Box and SERPs (through direct and indirect factors) operate in a similar manner.

However, when Amazon revealed the reasons for specific selections, several products noted that it was chosen for its “low return rate,” meaning that the above three criteria are not the only factors weighed.

While it seems that most consumers have been responding favorably to the new badge, critics argue that the “Amazon’s Choice” symbol has been psychologically restricting a consumer’s ability to choose for themselves by guiding them in a specific direction.

However, this distinction may not be as helpful to consumers as it seems and may, in fact, be breeding increased amounts of deception on Amazon.

Amazon’s Can of Worms

Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported on how sellers trick Amazon to boost sales. In that piece, the reporter noted that:

“A search last week for a blackhead-remover mask turned up more than a thousand options. One of the top-ranked results, labeled ‘Amazon’s Choice,’ had hundreds of reviews averaging 4.3 stars… But only the first four reviews were related to the mask—the hundreds of others mostly evaluated a battery charger.”

This scenario likely came to pass as the seller altered an old product listing that featured positive reviews by swapping out the product images and information to deceive Amazon’s algorithms into thinking the product was a premier item.

The article goes on to say that, “After an inquiry from the Journal, Amazon removed the unrelated reviews and the product was no longer labeled Amazon’s Choice.”

After researching the described item, we found this to be true:

Amazon Choice Demystified

(Source: Screenshot)

Amazon Choice What is it

However, the new item that bears the “Amazon’s Choice” emblem seems to be questionable in the “highly-rated” category given that it has only garnered 13 reviews in total (at the time of this writing):

Moreover, this is far from an isolated incident as Reddit users report this same phenomenon, claiming:

“I recently was looking to purchase a 3.5mm lightning adapter for my iPhone 7 plus. I was looking over Amazon for one that was highly rated, and eventually found one with strong reviews, as well as the ‘Amazon’s Choice’ label. I ordered this through Amazon Prime. When I got the product however, it did not work at all… Confused with how such a highly rated product could be so low quality, I checked back on the product page to find that the reviews were now displaying as only one and a half stars! On top of this, the ‘Amazon’s Choice’ tag was no longer there.”

It is clear that the “Amazon’s Choice” selection process is deeply flawed, and it isn’t exactly a reliable marker for buyers; however, legitimate sellers can undoubtedly benefit from the approval of Amazon.

Earning the Amazon’s Choice Badge

For sellers who want to gain the emblem to increase their sales honestly, there are a variety of steps that can be taken.

Firstly, ensure that products are Prime-eligible as these are the only items Alexa can order.

Next, always have enough product in stock to remain a suitable choice. Without product on-hand, Amazon will not place its badge on an item.

Merchants should also be sure to enhance their seller and product ratings while lowering their return rates by providing accurate product information and optimizing listings.

Finally, merchants should aim to increase their sales within a category by leveraging Amazon’s marketing services and techniques.

While the “Amazon’s Choice” system certainly isn’t perfect and has lots of kinks to be worked out, it can potentially be a viable option to promote worthy products to potential buyers.

However, given Amazon’s long-standing battle with fake reviews, the badge might never be a wholly credible source for consumers.

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Ronald Dod

Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder at Visiture
Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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