Supplement to Article “Amazon Has Changed its Search Algorithm to Favor Their Products” in 10.24.19 Newsletter
According to news reports, there was a fierce yearlong battle waged between the software engineers dubbed A9 (A for “Algorithm”) based in Palo Alto with retail business executives in Seattle. The engineers felt that it would be a conflict of interest, and unethical to manipulate the algorithm to benefit Amazon products since Amazon also was a search engine for competing products. They knew that any change to Amazon’s search algorithm would have a broad impact on sellers and manufacturers since Amazon ratings can make or break a product. According to the analytics firm Jumpshot, Amazon’s search bar is the most common way for shoppers to find online items and most purchases result from the first page of search results. The engineers also argued that the new algorithm goes against one of the core tenets of Amazon, which is to always put the customer first.
The retail business side (including Amazon’s private label) in Seattle countered that the new algorithm is consistent with other industries who have their sell both their private label and other competing products. They cited grocery or drug stores as those brands that routinely boost their products over other competing products sold in their stores.
Amazon lawyers also opposed changing the algorithm change because they feared that the government might object to possible antitrust issues
At the end, the retail executives in Seattle won this battle and the algorithm was changed to place upfront Amazon products or products that give them a greater profit margin. In addition, the A9 team no longer an independent department led by their own president. They now report to directly to the head of retail operations in Seattle.