Amazon reportedly altered its search algorithms to prioritise items which would make it more profit, according to a damning report by the Wall Street Journal.
The retailer’s A9 department, which is responsible for its search feature, told the WSJ that Amazon’s retail team pressured them to favour its private label products in search results by introducing a profitability metric.
Instead of showing the most relevant products, the algorithm was changed to prioritise “featured” products.
Though this didn’t mean only own-brand Amazon products received a boost, it sought to push these items with higher profit margins higher in search results.
According to the report, Amazon’s A9 team pushed back against the changes arguing that they were putting profitability over what was best for customers, and the retailer’s internal lawyers initially raised concerns over antitrust issues.
However, the measures were introduced late last year thanks to pressure from Amazon’s retail team who argued own-brands should receive preferential treatment similar to supermarkets which place own-brands on prime shelf space.
In response to the WSJ article, Amazon told Gizmodo: “The Wall Street Journal has it wrong. We explained at length that their ‘scoop’ from unnamed sources was not factually accurate, but they went ahead with the story anyway. The fact is that we have not changed the criteria we use to rank search results to include profitability.
“We feature the products customers will want, regardless of whether they are our own brands or products offered by our selling partners. As any store would do, we consider the profitability of the products we list and feature on the site, but it is just one metric and not in any way a key driver of what we show customers.”
The spokesperson added that Amazon’s online sales represent four per cent of US retail sales, and less than one per cent of global sales, while its private label sales represent less than one per cent of all products sold on its platform.