Amazon offers up more data to tell third-party sellers which items will be popular

The Verge - Wed Oct 20 19:05

Amazon has announced a tool that will give sellers access to information about what shoppers are currently looking for and help make it easier to choose which products to create next. Amazon calls it the Product Opportunity Explorer and says that it’ll give sellers access to data and trends that will help them “identify opportunities to launch new, high-potential products to serve unmet customer demand.”

With Amazon’s track record of copying popular products and selling them under its Amazon Basics brand, an obvious concern with this tool is where the data is coming from and how granular it is. While Amazon quotes a seller saying that they’re excited to get “recommendations specifically relevant” to their business, it’s easy to imagine other sellers being nervous that Amazon’s suggestions could direct businesses to rip off existing products.

In its press release, Amazon says that the tool gives sellers “rich insights into what customers are searching for, clicking on, and buying, as well as not buying,” along with “detailed data on search volume and growth, sales history, and pricing trends.”

That sounds pretty general, but we reached out to Amazon to see how granular the sales data is — we’ll update the story if we hear back. For its part, Amazon has denied in the past that it abuses its dual role as a product developer and marketplace provider. The company says it doesn’t use private data from individual sellers to develop Amazon Basics products and that it has policies to prevent employees from doing so. Still, the EU has accused Amazon of “systematically” using data from its marketplace that others can’t get. A recent report about Amazon India alleges even more egregious behavior there. The EU commission hasn’t released a report or findings stemming from the accusations, and Amazon has pushed back against both accusations.

There are also other minor concerns — if everyone has access to the same data or gets similar recommendations, could it start more algorithm-directed arms races between sellers to be the first to try to fill a perceived niche? And could Amazon risk damage to its relationship with sellers if the data predicts a product will do well, but it ends up totally flopping? The company may have the opportunity to figure those questions out before they become real problems, though; it will test the Product Opportunity Explorer in beta before releasing it for free to all sellers in 2022.