Amazon Reportedly Adjusted Search Algorithm to Favor Itself: WSJ

Amazon has reportedly adjusted the search algorithm on its marketplace in such a way as to favor results more profitable to itself, including its own house brands competing with third-party sellers, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal, a charge which the company denies.

Citing people who worked on the project for Amazon, the WSJ reported that Amazon late last year tweaked the algorithm that ranks search results in order to boost its own brands as well as those most profitable to itself. This runs counter to the standard practice of showing results with the greatest relevance as well as best sellers, the report said.

If true this would have major implications for ecommerce. According to marketing analytics firm Jumpshot, Amazon’s search bar has surpassed even Google as the primary way that consumers look for items to buy online, with most purchases being from sellers on page one of the results.

Amazon denied the allegations in a Tweet from its Amazon News account: “@WSJ story based on anonymous sources is wrong. We have not changed the criteria we use to rank search results to include profitability. We feature products customers want, regardless of whether they are our own brands or products offered by our selling partners.”

The company’s lawyers opposed the move, the WSJ said, as it not only went against longstanding policy and practice but could run afoul of antitrust investigations both here and in Europe looking into Amazon’s practices. Part of those investigations focus on Amazon’s dual role of operating a marketplace while also selling items there itself.

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