Amazon’s Newest Strategy Is to Get You to Buy Less

The company’s recent changes to its website are designed to get you to buy fewer items in order to cope with extraordinary demand.


If anything, the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us a few things about what we’re really capable of. There are plenty of examples of companies that have taken a creative approach to serving their customers. Coffee shops are offering to deliver. Pizza delivery drivers will leave your order on your porch and text you to let you know it’s there.

The driving motivation behind all of those changes is to find ways to keep serving customers while at the same time staying in business. That’s understandable, especially as the world has come almost to a stop, business and the economy with it.

Amazon, on the other hand, has an entirely different problem. You could argue it’s one of those problems that everyone wishes they had: People are buying too much.

The company has already hired 100,000 workers to cope with the surge in online shopping and recently announced it would hire 75,000 more. That’s quite a surge.

Of course, selling more is usually the goal, but even a company like Amazon has limits.

It’s a real problem. Amazon built an enormous e-commerce operation around the promise that you could find basically anything and have it shipped to your door–often in two days. Sometimes even faster.

Now, however, simple items are frequently out of stock, and even those that are available are delayed, sometimes as much as a few weeks. Two days is a lot different than two weeks, and that disconnect presents a real challenge for Amazon and its customers.

Amazon had to make some hard decisions in order to prioritize certain products that it considers more essential like baby items, health and hygiene needs, and other staples. For a while it stopped allowing non-essential products into its fulfillment warehouses, though that appears to have been relaxed.

The challenge is to figure out the best way to balance an extraordinary increase in demand with its ability to actually provide a positive experience for its customers. The answer, apparently, is to reduce some of that demand, at least for now.

To that end, The Wall Street Journal reported that the company canceled its Mother’s and Father’s day promotions and has dialed back features on its site designed to get people to buy more. For example, the company has removed the popular recommendation widget, that displays products people frequently buy along with whatever is already in your cart.

Of course, this also just shows you how incredibly powerful all of those shopping tools really are.

There’s a lesson here for every business, and it’s not that you should try to sell less. The lesson is that you can’t always do everything. Right now, it’s better to do what you can, and focus on finding ways to do it better.

When people visit Amazon to buy what they need, they have a certain expectation based on the company’s promise. If the company can’t deliver on that promise, it has a real effect on the overall brand.

On the other hand, no one misses the product recommendation they never received because Amazon turned off a widget. In that regard, this is actually a pretty smart way to adjust expectations to fit within what the company is able to manage.

Rightsizing people’s expectations ends up being a better experience for everyone involved.