Amazon Intros Invite-Based Ordering for High-Demand Items

Amazon is combatting inventory shortages with a new invite-based ordering protocol for high-demand products, starting with U.S. fulfillment of the Sony PlayStation 5 game console, followed by Microsoft’s Xbox Series X. The idea is to prevent hoarding by “scalpers” who program bots to buy in quantity then resell the items at significant markup. Participation does not require Prime membership, merely a request for the invitation. Amazon plans to roll the program out to more countries as it strives to ensure a positive shopping experience for individual customers and households.

“We work hard every day to provide customers with low prices, vast selection, and fast delivery. This includes developing a shopping experience where customers can purchase the items they’re interested in without having to worry about bad actors buying and reselling them at a much higher price,” Amazon VP of consumer engagement Llew Mason said in a statement to TechCrunch.

Shoppers who land on the page for a product Amazon is including in the program will see a “request invitation” button. They’ll also be advised the product is a “high-demand item with limited quantities” and a warning that Amazon “won’t be able to grant all requests.” The Amazon product page will indicate an expiration time for the invitation that counts down the hours and minutes.

The company plans to cull any bot-like inquiries and send invitations to those customers who authenticate. Amazon says it “will verify genuine customers by looking at a number of factors, including the account’s prior purchase history and when the account was created,” TechCrunch reports, explaining that “if the customer’s invitation to purchase is granted, they will receive an email with instructions on how to purchase the item.”

The email will state the deadline to complete the purchase and include a link that directs shoppers to place the order by adding the item to an Amazon check-out cart or selecting “buy now.”

The reseller issue has been a headache for consumers and suppliers alike. Manufacturers like Microsoft and Sony “want the consoles to go to players that will use them right away to purchase additional games,” Gartner analyst Brad Jashinsky told Adweek, which says “that’s because the manufacturers make more money from selling games than from the consoles.”

The issue “has plagued retailers and event ticket sellers like Live Nation for years,” Adweek reports, quoting Jashinsky as saying “Amazon has a great opportunity to overcome these challenges since the company has so much e-commerce purchase data and high frequency customers. The company can look at purchase behavior and how long a customer has had an Amazon account to understand whether the account is likely to be a bot.”