Amazon’s Choice: What We Know About How It Works

Amazon’s Choice is a unique seal of approval from Amazon. But how are products chosen, and can you improve your chances of getting it?

If you shop on Amazon, you may have seen the Amazon’s Choice badge starting to appear on certain products when browsing the site. The badge has steadily become more visible, with more and more products featuring the logo.

But what does it really mean, and how does it work? Are Amazon’s Choice items selected by an algorithm, or through deliberate human curation? It’s something of a mystery, and has left sellers puzzled and itching to find out exactly how products are chosen.

What isn’t such a mystery is the significance to shoppers. In a nutshell, Amazon’s Choice is the same as saying, “Amazon recommends”. It acts as a stamp of approval which, until now, has been a very rare thing to see from Amazon themselves. Instead of relying solely on customer reviews, buyers can immediately see which product is the “best”, straight from the horse’s mouth.

While no-one knows exactly how Amazon’s Choice works, there are a lot of clues out there. Here’s everything we’ve uncovered, including the factors involved in selecting products and how you might improve your chances of attaining that little badge.

What is Amazon’s Choice?

Amazon’s Choice began as a program to support Alexa voice-operated devices. There isn’t a good equivalent to browsing search results on smart speakers like the Echo, so it served as a means to identify just one product per search, and make shopping possible via these devices.

For example, if you wanted Alexa to find you a “clear iPhone 8 case”, there would be hundreds of products that would be near-impossible to filter and choose between, just using voice commands. But by giving certain items the Amazon’s Choice badge, Alexa can recommend an item and make ordering more simple and efficient.

Since then, Amazon’s Choice has begun to surface more and more on the Amazon website and mobile app. The badge appears as a small dark blue box, contrasting strongly with the background, at the top left corner of product search results. It is bold, eye-catching and clearly labeled.

There is just one Amazon’s Choice for any product search. The chosen product is after the Sponsored Product ads and is, sometimes, the first organic search result. However, that isn’t always the case. Amazon’s Choice items can appear a lot lower in the product ranking. The badge is still hard to miss, and items with it stand out when they are in fifth position or even lower in the results.

Richard Hurtley

It’s going to have a big impact. If you’ve got one of the number-one trusted brands in the world giving you the badge of approval, you’re going to have a huge edge with the consumer. It’s definitely key.
Richard Hurtley, MD & Multi-Channel Retail Specialist, Rich Insight

If Amazon’s Choice items don’t always occupy the top search position, what factors are coming into play? Does it even make a difference to sales? And how can sellers get it?

Keyword specific

We know that Amazon’s Choice is keyword-driven. As it was originally designed as a feature for voice-activated orders on Echo devices, it is clear that the chosen items correspond to specific keyword searches. If you search for items using just slightly different keywords, Amazon will often give the Amazon’s Choice badge to a different item.

For example, if you search for “hair clippers” on Amazon.com, then the Amazon’s Choice item is this Wahl Clipper priced at $29.87.

But if you search for “hair cutter” it gives a different Amazon’s Choice item. This time it’s the Philips Norelco Multigroom, priced at $19.95.

This illustrates that Amazon’s Choice is highly sensitive to the exact keywords used. Each variation gives different search results, and often a different Amazon’s Choice.

If you click through to the product page, it says again that the product is Amazon’s Choice for the specific keywords you used to search.

Find the product through a different search where it was not Amazon’s Choice, or through a direct link, or by browsing the directory, and the badge might not be there.

So, a product does not receive the badge in its own right, but only in the context of specific keywords. To put it another way, the product isn’t always Amazon’s Choice – it depends on how you found it!

How is Amazon’s Choice selected?

Much like with search ranking, Amazon does not spell out exactly what its criteria are for Amazon’s Choice, and how they are weighted against each other. But they do provide some information to the shopper, which gives us an indication of what criteria is being taken into account.

First, there is a little bubble tip that appears when you hover over the badge itself (or click, if using a mobile device).

Second, Amazon have recently begun revealing the specific criteria for individual items, calling it “Why we love this product”. This is a bullet list of three reasons why the product was selected. It is not shown consistently, and the three reasons vary between products.

Here’s an example:

Combining these gives a list of the following factors:

  • Highly rated from user reviews
  • Competitively priced
  • Popular with shoppers searching for that keyword
  • Bestseller in its category
  • Available to ship immediately
  • Eligible for Prime delivery
  • Lower return rate than similar products

The factors may not be equally important for every item, as is suggested by the variation in the “Why we love this product” reasons.

And, of course, some of these factors are subjective. What does “well priced” or “popular with shoppers” mean more specifically? “Popular” might relate to the click-through rate from search results, or the conversion rate to sales. It could also be a combination of both, or something else entirely.

Moving onto price and reviews, if you browse through Amazon for a while, you will notice that it isn’t always the cheapest item, or the highest-rated item, which has the Amazon’s Choice badge.

However, items with the badge are consistently at least four-star rated and have competitive prices compared to the other search results, but not always the lowest prices.

We’ve also seen that Amazon’s Choice products consistently have Prime delivery, so marketplace sellers must be using FBA or Seller-Fulfilled Prime. Many items with the badge are branded items sold by Amazon themselves, but there are also plenty of Amazon’s Choice items from third-party sellers, including those with their own private label brands.

Beyond that, there is a huge amount of variation and inconsistency in the products that “win” the badge. We know that there are factors in play that we cannot see, such as returns and click-through rates. But there is no consistent correlation between the factors we can see (such as reviews, price, sales rank, shipping times, Prime etc.) and the product that has the Amazon’s Choice label.

Is it algorithmic or curated?

The words “Amazon’s Choice” have a very human connotation, sounding like a well-considered personal recommendation. This is even stronger in related wording like, “Why we love his product”.

It’s very personal and emotive language, but there are a number of reasons we feel confident to say that Amazon’s Choice is purely algorithmic:

  • The huge breadth of Amazon’s inventory and wide appearance of the badge
  • The fact that the products “winning” the badge change frequently
  • The statistics given as explanations for why a product was selected (e.g. 59% fewer returns than similar products)
  • The fact that similar keywords, and even exact synonyms, have completely different Amazon’s Choices

It would place huge demands on Amazon to run this program manually. Given the size of Amazon’s business, they would have to employ hundreds of people solely to select and constantly update the chosen products.

How do you get the Amazon’s Choice badge?

For all intents and purposes, Amazon’s Choice is a ringing endorsement of a product, so it’s highly coveted by marketplace sellers, especially those with their own private label or brand. There’s no other time when Amazon themselves will stand up and say, in a straightforward way, “this product is the best one”.

Amazon have stated in their official seller forums that Amazon’s Choice is driven only by their own internal processes and data. That means:

  • Sellers can’t enroll or register
  • It’s not possible to request that your product be selected
  • You can’t buy Amazon’s Choice
  • You don’t need any special relationship with Amazon

So what can you do?

Unfortunately, there are so many inconsistencies that focusing specifically on winning the Amazon’s Choice badge is probably not a good use of your time. Take the example below:

These are the Amazon.com search results for “hair clips”, shown from the first organic result downwards (there were three sponsored results above).

The Amazon’s Choice is Diane Large butterfly clamps, which:

  • Are not at the top of the organic search results (ranked fourth)
  • Do not have a better sales rank than the first three products (you can see this in the individual product detail pages)
  • Do not have more reviews than the other products
  • Have an average rating of 4.4, versus 4.7 for the first product in the results
  • Are Prime eligible, along with the other products

So why is it Amazon’s Choice, ahead of the others? In this case, the Diane hair clips are sold by Amazon themselves, which may be a key factor. But the product page states the following reasons:

  • Low Return Rate: 71% fewer returns than similar products
  • Highly Rated: More than 85% 4 star and 5 star reviews
  • Popular Item: Popular with customers shopping for “hair clips”

So it may be that the low return rate, or maybe a high conversion rate, are the winning elements. That’s information that we cannot see and compare.

Still, it seems counter-intuitive that these hair clips are inferior to the other search results in so many ways, and that the Amazon’s Choice algorithm is so different to the search ranking algorithm. Why should the factors that determine the top search result be so different to the factors behind Amazon’s Choice?

Here’s another example. In this case, it’s from a search for “mugs” on Amazon.co.uk:

The Amazon’s Choice here is in the 19th position of the search results, just one place from the very bottom of the page. It has 13 reviews, an average rating of 4.8, a weak sales rank and is not sold or dispatched by Amazon themselves (so not in FBA). It does have the Prime badge, so must be eligible for that under Seller-Fulfilled Prime.

In contrast, the top organic result for the same search has 22 reviews, an average rating of 4.6, a strong sales rank and is sold by Amazon. It’s also a very similar-looking plain white mug, in a pack of 12 that works out cheaper per unit than the Amazon’s Choice!

As you can see from these examples, the Amazon’s Choice can quite often completely defy logical explanation, at least judging by the factors that are visible. That is why pursuing the Amazon’s Choice badge is probably not a good use of your time.

It absolutely makes sense to optimize your listings for search rank and conversion rate, including working on reviews, keywords, pricing and so on – but not specifically to gain Amazon’s Choice. It’s not an exact science and chasing this elusive badge is likely to be a very frustrating exercise.

Will you keep the badge if you raise your prices?

If you have the Amazon’s Choice badge, and then increase your price, would you then lose the label? This will depend, but we have seen that Amazon’s Choice for any given keyword will change over time, so you shouldn’t expect to keep it when the relevant criteria change for your product.

However, we have also seen that products can go out of stock and retain Amazon’s Choice for a time, directly contradicting the statement that they are “Available to ship immediately”. It seems that there is a time lag rather than it responding in real-time, and unscrupulous sellers might try to take advantage of that by pushing up prices.

Does it make a difference to sales?

The jury is out on this. On the face of it, Amazon’s Choice is a big deal and will surely help persuade shoppers who want to make a quick purchasing decision. On the other hand, there is little anecdotal evidence from sellers that having the badge corresponds with higher sales.

Andrew Maff

It’s really just their way of saying, “this is the most appealing product for this keyword right now”. To have accurate data on whether it helps or not, you would have to track how many sales you got for each keyword before and after getting the badge, which is not going to be easy. We manage a lot of accounts, and I haven’t seen it making a big difference to sales.
Andrew Maff, Director of Marketing and Operations, Seller’s Choice

It stands to reason that having the Amazon’s Choice badge should uplift sales, or at least click-throughs, and therefore have a positive reinforcing effect on search rank, but we haven’t heard sellers back that up.

Conclusion

Amazon’s Choice is a seal of approval, a badge of recommendation which means your item will be seen in a better light by thousands of potential customers.

It is driven by search keywords, so Amazon gives the label to different products depending on the keywords used. It varies a great deal for keywords that are only slightly different, or even have exactly the same meaning.

It is clearly algorithmic, and several of the factors that influence Amazon’s Choice are publicly known – Amazon explains to shoppers what Amazon’s Choice indicates, both in general and sometimes for specific products as well.

Despite that, it isn’t at all clear which factors are more important than others, and many search results have an Amazon’s Choice which cannot be justified by analyzing visible data like reviews and sales rank. Beware of drawing simple conclusions, such as it always being awarded to the top organic search result, or the best reviewed product, or only to products sold by Amazon themselves. We have seen none of those hold true.

So, should you optimize your listings for Amazon’s Choice?

The answer, for now, has to be “no”. Good practices for listing optimization and maintaining high performance metrics should support your Amazon sales across the board and, in theory, improve your chances of getting the Amazon’s Choice badge. But don’t pursue it in its own right. There’s no pot of gold at the end of that particular rainbow.

2 comments on “Amazon’s Choice: What We Know About How It Works

  1. Great article !
    Is there a report or method where you can see which keywords have Amazons Choice badges for an ASIN ?

    thanks

    1. Not that I know of, but there are a couple of hacks that might prove useful.

      1. Some products show the Amazon’s Choice badge (including the keywords) when you navigate to the product page directly. e.g. right now this is the Amazon’s Choice for “sony headphones”:

      https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NJ2M33I

      2. You can plug keywords into a URL to “fake” having done a search and see if the ASIN is Amazon’s Choice for that keyword. e.g. this shows that the same headphones are also Amazon’s Choice for “MDRZX110”:

      https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NJ2M33I/?keywords=MDRZX110

      To use multiple keywords use + instead of spaces, like:

      https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NJ2M33I/?keywords=sony+MDRZX110

      Someone could use/abuse this hack to compile a report on all the ASINs and Amazon’s Choice keywords.

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