Amazon tweaked search to promote more profitable products, reports WSJ

Amazon tweaked search to promote more profitable products, reports WSJ

Amazon changed the algorithms that power its product-search system to favor products with higher profit margins, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources familiar with the situation.

The company adjusted its product-search system late last year so that instead of surfacing products that were best-sellers or the most relevant for consumers, it incorporated new variables mean to boost the prominence of proudcts that delivered higher profit margins. Some divisions in the company had also pressured search engineers to favor its own “private-label” products, although it’s not clear from the report if the changes ended up boosting those products.

Representatives from Amazon were not immediately available for comment.

Internally, high-level executives in Amazon’s retail business and A9, the company’s search team, fought over the move. Retail executives believed Amazon should showcase in-house brands, similar to how grocery stores promote their own brands, while employees who worked on the project argued that it wasn’t in Amazon customers’ best interest to surface its own products first, according to the Journal.

Additionally, Amazon’s own lawyers pushed back against the change, saying it could attract further scrutiny from antitrust regulators.

The report comes as Amazon faces ongoing antitrust probes from the European Union’s competition watchdog, as well as in the US over its marketplace activity. Last week, as part of a broader antitrust inquiry into major tech companies, leaders of the House Judiciary Committee requested documents from Amazon regarding how its own products factor into its search algorithm, as well as what data is made available to sellers on the platform.

Read the full report from the Wall Street Journal.

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