Sales drop for sites after Amazon query throttle

A new limit on queries to Amazon's site is limiting sales for some partners

Some website developers and Amazon sellers say they're losing significant sales after Amazon made a change to its Product Advertising API.

Amazon's Product Advertising API lets websites query Amazon for data like product information, customer reviews and wish lists. Websites may use this data in a variety of ways, such as to show shoppers comparison pricing. Amazon offers access to the data because it allows other sites to drive sales to Amazon, for which the third-party sites earn commissions.

But Amazon has started limiting data queries to 2,000 per hour. Sites will get an additional 500 requests per hour for every US$1 of shipped-item revenue generated per hour.

In a note to developers, Amazon said it is implementing the limit due to heavy users. "A small number of users are requesting very large amounts of product data while generating a very small amount of product sales," it said.

Amazon started implementing the new limit on Monday. In order to allow Amazon to apply partner sales toward enabling more queries per hour, developers must make changes to the way their sites query Amazon.

Even after developers make that change, however, they could still lose sales.

One website developer who asked not to be named said that during a busy hour, his site might max out with the new limits. His site lets visitors compare prices and shipping times for products sold by a variety of online retailers. Each time a visitor searches for a product, the site queries Amazon using the Product Advertising API for that information.

He was surprised at how Amazon handled this change. Because implementing the new code wasn't required to continue making queries, he didn't notice that he needed to and didn't implement it initially. That means that until he put it in place, Amazon results were turning up for visitors to his site usually only within about 15 minutes after each hour. After that time, if visitors bought products from other sites, the developer would have earned commission from those sites but Amazon would have lost out on a chance at the sale.

Other site developers appear to have been unprepared for the new limit as well, with some struggling to implement the necessary change properly.

The developer of the comparison shopping site said that the documentation that Amazon offered, instructing sites how they must update their code to enable queries above 2,000, is poor. Amazon also isn't offering a tool for developers to check that they've made the changes correctly, he said.

The query limit is also affecting people who sell products on Amazon. That's because sellers use the Product Advertising API to find information like competitive pricing, Frank Sinisterra, an Amazon seller, wrote in an Amazon forum.

That's causing problems for R. A. Stokeld, who also complained in the forum. "Since this change came into effect all our re-pricing routines have failed (5k+ items on each site soon uses up the 2,000 calls). We are now losing sales and therefore Amazon is losing money," Stokeld wrote.

Amazon declined to comment further than the statement it posted on its Product Advertising API page.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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Nancy Gohring

IDG News Service
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