US: Amazon changed search algorithm to boost profitable products?

Amazon has altered its search algorithm in a way that would boost profits for the online retail giant despite pushback against the decision from within the company, The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, September 16.

The change reportedly came last year with a tweak that prioritizes products that are more profitable for Amazon⁠—including its own brands—in a departure from its long-standing practice of displaying products in order of relevance to a user’s search terms.

According to the Journal, Amazon’s retail business was behind the push for the product search system to take profitability into account. Programmers tasked with running the search algorithm—a group called A9—reportedly opposed the idea as running counter to the company’s ethos of putting the customer above all else.

Amazon’s legal team also raised concerns about the idea, according to the Journal, pointing out that the decision could draw scrutiny from the European Union, which had fined Google US$2.7 billion in 2017 for elevating its own comparison shopping service in its search results.

In an emailed statement to the Journal, the company wrote said it has not “changed the criteria we use to rank search results to include profitability.”

“Amazon designs its shopping and discovery experience to feature the products customers will want, regardless of whether they are our own brands or products offered by our selling partners,” Amazon spokeswoman Angie Newman added.