The Amazon Effect

How Amazon’s algorithm allows extremist merchandise to spread

Amazon recently announced that it was cracking down on QAnon merchandise. Even if the company is truly shifting its approach to how it polices product listings, its ability to cut down on disinformation merchandise will be hamstrung by its own algorithms. As long as Amazon’s product recommendation algorithm takes a purely neutral approach — even to anti-vaccine or white nationalist products — it will continue to give them prominent slots in search results.

Latest Stories

  • JAN 08, 2021

    ‘A long-term commitment’: How Amazon’s cargo fleet ambitions are getting serious

    Amazon just announced that it would buy 11 of its own cargo planes. The decision solidifies what many in the industry have long speculated: Amazon is starting to play a long game with its shipping network. “The fact that it purchased a plane is a very clear indication that it is there to remain, it’s a long-term commitment,” said one logistics expert.

  • JAN 05, 2021

    How Amazon sellers are getting Silicon Valley-ified

    Amazon sellers are increasingly being wooed by VCs and acquirers. These new firms tend to use similar tricks for finding and optimizing products -- redesigning product pages, reshooting product photos, adding keywords and so on. Amazon’s third-party marketplace could well become crowded with increasingly indistinct, algorithmic winners, accelerating a trend that has already begun on the platform.

  • DEC 16, 2020
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    ‘The time for amateurs seems over’: How acquirers are giving Amazon sellers an exit

    A German startup called Razor bought out a seller’s three top-selling products. Razor is part of a growing ecosystem of Amazon seller acquisition companies, sometimes called seller “rollup” companies, that invest in successful Amazon products and pull them into a much larger Amazon product portfolio. Here’s a look at how this growing offshoot of Amazon commerce works.

  • DEC 15, 2020

    While Amazon tries to grow its Just Walk Out technology, competitors are thriving

    Companies like Keyo, Grabango, Standard Cognition, Aifi, Zippin and Trigo have all worked on various types of cashierless technology. And despite Amazon’s tremendous power, these companies aren’t seeing their businesses shrink this year. If anything, having Amazon enter a new sector of the retail technology space seems to be a boost for the companies are already active in it.

  • DEC 11, 2020

    Explainer: The high-profile 2021 bills that may change Amazon’s business model

    E-commerce liability protections might start to come with extra strings attached -- if they continue at all. A September court decision declared that Amazon was in fact responsible for a defective laptop battery sold by a third party on its site, in large part because Amazon warehoused and packaged that product through its Fulfillment by Amazon network. In October, the White House called for stronger anti-counterfeit legislation against e-commerce companies. And that is giving new momentum to a series of Congressional and state bills.

  • DEC 07, 2020

    ‘It wasn’t really a perk’: How Amazon Launchpad has been left to languish

    It seemed, briefly, like Amazon might shake up the way that startups take off. But over five years later, Launchpad has languished. Although there are some success stories, few customers have heard of Launchpad -- and many of those sellers who did work with Launchpad felt that the perks weren’t worth the extra 5% of profits they had to give up. What happened to the highly anticipated program for growing startups?

  • DEC 04, 2020

    Why retailers like Amazon and Target are embracing no-rush delivery

    At the same time as retailers are racing to perform ever-faster shipping times, they also appear to be upping the incentives for slow delivery. Retailers, including Amazon, Target and Macy's are all offering shoppers discounts in exchange for longer shipping times. And that split might signal a changing mindset for some retailers -- rather than focusing on speed at all costs, some are taking a more nuanced approach to logistics.

  • NOV 18, 2020

    As e-commerce skyrockets, Amazon seller acquisition companies are booming

    This year, a growing set of acquisition companies have turned buying up Amazon third-party sellers into an incredibly lucrative business. In exchange for an upfront payment, usually in the high hundreds of thousands or low millions, these companies will buy out successful Amazon third-party sellers and roll their products up into a larger conglomerate. That has made “getting acquired” an increasingly common goal among the most successful Amazon sellers -- and it might signal a broader shift in the culture of selling Amazon, as vast troves of outside capital floods into the sector.

  • NOV 13, 2020

    How Amazon’s fulfillment options help expand its control over Shopify and Etsy

    Amazon is slowly offering an option that would let sellers fulfill orders outside of its marketplace in unbranded boxes. In doing so, Amazon is only deepening its influence over the e-commerce world -- so much so that, if sellers opt to use its fulfillment services, Amazon will continue to make money no matter where consumers buy from. In a world where Amazon controls much of e-commerce logistics, even consumers who want to avoid shopping at Amazon might still end up benefiting from the corporation’s massive reach.

  • NOV 12, 2020

    How Amazon is trying to safeguard the next wave of panic buying

    Things likely won't be as crazy as they were last April for Amazon. But if panic buying does happen again, Amazon seems more prepared to handle it -- and to neutralize a subsequent rush of price gouging. Experts say the company has tweaked its algorithms to deal with new challenges. But even more hurdles lie ahead, and sellers are worried their businesses may be impacted.

  • NOV 11, 2020

    How Amazon Explore is trying to mix experiences with commerce

    On the surface, Amazon Explore looks almost identical to Airbnb’s Online Experiences platform, even down to the layout. Users toggle through a series of live-streamed sessions -- like cooking classes, ghost tours and fashion tutorials -- broken out by continent. But instead of an attempt to disrupt the hospitality industry, for Amazon, Explore seems to be an experiment with another, more intimate model of selling goods. It's all part of Amazon's move toward live-streaming commerce and more organic product discovery.

  • NOV 06, 2020

    How local e-commerce platforms are trying to challenge Amazon’s dominance

    A growing network of e-commerce platforms like Shop Where I Live and Bookshop.org have popped up to provide a close-to-home alternative to Amazon. Their vision is of an online shopping world that isn’t dominated by two or three giant companies, but instead is decentralized across hundreds of different, localized websites. Already in a number of cities worldwide, these websites focus on getting small businesses online and creating more equitable business models. But do they present a viable alternative to Amazon's growing dominance?

  • JAN 18, 2021
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    Shoppable video is filling a physical retail void

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