Though Amazon often claims to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company", a report by ProPublica claims it uses algorithms that do not quite put the customer first. According to their investigation, Amazon uses algorithms that put their own products first so that customers end up paying more for popular products.
ProPublica reportedly reviewed 250 frequently purchased items on Amazon and noticed that instead of displaying the best and cheapest deal in the 'Buy Box', (the first suggestion that pops up for customers), Amazon listed its own products, or those of companies who pay an extra premium to Amazon, even if these products are more expensive.
The 'Buy Box' is the most prized location on the virtual shelves of Amazon, guaranteeing maximum customer views. Statistics show that most users end up 'Adding to Cart' the product highlighted by Amazon in the 'Buy Box'.
Additionally, Amazon's product listings include shipping charges for all products, except for Amazon's own products or those of Amazon-linked companies, (for example those linked to the Fulfilled-by-Amazon program), which automatically raises the site ranking of these products. These high ranking products often fall in rank once the shipping charges are included.
What is more, the calculation and math behind Amazon's algorithm is secret, and the company spokesperson refused to comment on why the company does not include shipping charges of its and its paid partners' products in its product rankings.
If the customer ended up buying every Amazon suggested product, they would be paying at least 20 percent more than what they could have been paying had they gone for the really cheapest and lowest offers.
In a statement issued by Amazon, the company said:
"Customers trust Amazon to have great prices, but that’s not all -- vast selection, world-class customer service and fast, free delivery are critically important, -- These components, and more, determine our product listings."
Amazon's founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who pushed for the decision to allow selling the products of other companies on Amazon, even if it meant a slash in sales, has said in the past that Amazon uses "very objective customer-centered algorithms".
But if ProPublica's reports are true, customer-centrism might not be Amazon's sole motto after all.
You can check out the report here.
Feature Image Source: AFP