Amazon starts revealing secret formula behind influential ‘Amazon’s Choice’ selections

On mobile devices, the “Amazon’s Choice” selection criteria for specific products are accessible via a new “Why we love this product” link.

Amazon is disclosing new details about the previously mysterious criteria behind the “Amazon’s Choice” designation given to selected products on the giant e-commerce site.

On some product pages for some “Amazon’s Choice” selections, the company has started listing three specific reasons for conferring the coveted status. The criteria vary by product, but based on those we’ve spotted, the formula gives heavy weight to average customer ratings of at least 4 stars, low return rates compared to similar products, popularity in Amazon search results, and eligibility for Amazon Prime delivery.

For example, the company provides these reasons for giving the Amazon’s Choice label to the Acer Predator Helios 300 Gaming Laptop.

  • Low Return Rate: 28% fewer returns than similar products
  • Highly Rated: 4.1 star rating with over 1,100 reviews
  • Popular Item: Popular with customers searching for “gaming laptop”

And these criteria are listed for the Netgear Nighthawk X6 AC3000 Dual Band Smart WiFi Router.

  • Highly Rated: More than 80% 4 star and 5 star reviews
  • Popular Item: Popular with customers searching for “ac3000 router”
  • Prime Delivery: Eligible for Prime free, fast delivery

On mobile screens, the company says, “Why we love this product,” next to the Amazon’s Choice label. Tapping that link brings up the criteria used in the selection of that specific product.

It’s not just electronics products. Here’s the explanation for the Amazon’s Choice designation on Fiskars All Steel Bypass Pruning Shears, for example.

  • Low Return Rate: 17% fewer returns than similar products
  • Best Seller: #1 best seller in Grass Clippers Shears
  • Highly Rated: More than 80% 4 star and 5 star reviews

We are still seeing some Amazon’s Choice product pages without the detailed explanation, suggesting this is still being rolled out.

Anecdotally, at least, the Amazon’s Choice designation can have a significant impact on the outcome of a customer’s purchase decision.

The “Amazon’s Choice” program was originally released for Amazon’s Alexa, before being expanded to Previously, the company simply said that “Amazon’s Choice recommends highly rated, well-priced products available to ship immediately.” But beyond that, it wasn’t clear why specific products were selected.

Just a few weeks ago, a CNET story highlighted the mystery surrounding the selection of products as “Amazon’s Choice.” The piece by reviewer David Carnoy established that an “Amazon’s Choice” designation can’t be purchased by a seller, and that the selected companies weren’t previously told exactly why their products were chosen. Amazon doesn’t do any testing of the products itself, nor does it take into account reviews from third-party sites, CNET reported.

But are humans involved at all in making the selections? Who or what is making the choice behind “Amazon’s Choice”? Are other criteria, not listed publicly, also taken into account? Those questions remain unanswered.

As noted in the CNET story, the effectiveness of an automated choice could have big implications for human product reviewers. What does it mean if Amazon’s algorithms, with help from customer reviews, are better at identifying quality products than professional human reviewers are?

So far, all of the “Amazon’s Choice” criteria we’ve spotted are quantifiable in some way, which means this could be entirely or largely automated. This is Amazon, after all, so that wouldn’t be a big surprise, especially given the sheer size of the company’s e-commerce footprint.

We’ve contacted Amazon for comment and will update this story depending on what we hear back.

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