Tradeswell Research: Amazon Adds Friction to the Flywheel

This article is part of our Tradeswell Research series. We’re sharing findings from our data and research and turning them into actionable insights that ecommerce brands can use to make better business decisions that drive profit and enhance the customer experience.

The Tradeswell Research team investigated Amazon’s digital shelf to uncover how many of the top 12 product spots on a search results page go to sponsored products versus organically ranked products. Based on our findings, we outlined key recommendations that ecommerce brands can use to increase the chances of getting their products in one of the top 12 spots.

The Amazon digital shelf landscape is shifting

When searching for something specific on Amazon, how often do you go to the second page of the search results? Studies found that 80% of all clicks happen on the first page of Amazon’s search results, and at least 60% of clicks go to the first three products listed — emphasizing the need for brands or resellers to get their products as high in the search results as possible.

Throughout 2021, Amazon awarded roughly 65-70% of the top 12 spots in search results to organic product listings — products with high rankings likely due to their investment in Amazon Flywheel. The other 30-35% of the top 12 spots went to sponsored products — brands or resellers that paid for those products to rank high in the listing.

As recently as January of this year, we started to see a shift in the percentage of organic versus sponsored products that received the top 12 product spots (Note: For the remainder of the article, we’ll refer to the top 12 spots simply as ‘the top spots’). 

Organic vs. sponsored: To who is Amazon awarding the top spots?

Beginning in January 2022, Amazon gradually increased the number of top spots given to sponsored products — roughly 35-40% of the top spots went to sponsored products in January and February, up from the previous average of 30-35%.

The Amazon digital shelf took a drastic shift by the end of February.


Amazon sponsored product share of search results


In the last six weeks, sponsored products were given as high as 60% of the top spots — a 52% increase in the share of top spots compared to the previous six weeks. At the same time, the average cost per click (CPC) decreased. This makes sense as simple economics will tell us that as supply (number of sponsored spots) increases, price (CPC) drops.

Amazon sponsored product share of search results comparison


How to pivot your Amazon strategy based on Tradeswell’s research

Because this is a very early finding, we’ll be monitoring this developing story over the next several weeks. However, we believe there’s enough data to warrant consideration in your Amazon strategy to avoid experiencing an immediate dip in revenue.

The data suggests that Amazon is pushing organically ranked products further down the results page to encourage you to ‘pay to play.’ That being the case, you can no longer solely rely on organic product rankings to keep your spot at the top of the search results page — you have to maintain advertising spend in order to keep the Amazon Flywheel moving.

Our recommendations:

  1. Review your Amazon product data and determine if you’ve seen a drop in organic search rankings and product sales.
  2. Focus your Amazon advertising strategy on maintaining a presence at the top of the search results page after new products gain traction, and increase your investment in sponsored product spots for items that dropped in organic search ranking.
  3. Don’t ditch your Amazon Flywheel strategy — roughly 40% of spots go to organically ranked products (for now).

We’ll continue to monitor the share of top search result spots on Amazon given to sponsored products versus organically ranked products.

If you need help capturing product performance across Amazon and your other sales channels, look no further than Tradeswell. Tradeswell tracks performance in real-time and generates insights to help you optimize advertising strategies, boost sales, and maximize profit margins. Try Tradeswell for free.

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