Amazon users may know the feeling, especially during the holiday shopping season: Overwhelmed by choices on an e-commerce platform with more than half a billion products, many people simply decide to buy one of the best-selling items appearing at the very top of the search results.
No wonder those spots are coveted. In China and elsewhere, some Amazon sellers resort to cunning techniques to manipulate product listings, get one of those top spots, and boost their sales. There’s even a cohort of self-proclaimed experts, sometimes called “gurus,” who claim to have mastered the art of algorithm manipulation. They charge thousands of dollars for advice that they advertise as the key to immediate commercial success. Those shadowy tactics often breach Amazon’s rules.
Aware of these violations, Amazon says it has zero tolerance for abuse of its systems and that it takes swift action against bad actors.
The Wall Street Journal investigated for months in Shenzhen, Hong Kong and San Francisco and found fake reviews, artificial sales and bribes are among the most popular methods in the “guru” toolbox. This video explains how some Chinese sellers are finding shortcuts to beat their competitors on America’s largest e-commerce platform—and how you can spot sham listings.
—Laura Stevens contributed to this article.