The little search engine that couldn’t

Amazon Prime has over 200 million subscribers worldwide. In India, it has nearly 22.3 million subscribers.

Many streaming services had start-up issues like bad interfaces or poor search engine. Over time, these OTT platforms iron out the issues. Surprisingly, that doesn’t seem to be the case for Amazon, one of the biggest companies in the world with unlimited resources at its disposal.

An application engineer at Oracle, AB Satyaprakash, pointed out the shortcomings of Prime Video’s search function.

Interestingly, Amazon accounts for 54% of all product searches on the internet and has one of the best recommendation systems and search engines in the industry. However, Amazon Prime Video, available in nearly 200 countries, has a poor search engine. To make matters worse, Prime Video’s clunky user interface is a real pain in the neck.


The Prime model is unique and in many ways hard to imitate. Amazon has really built a moat with its loyalty program. The OTT platform is part of the larger offering; Prime subscribers also get access to a music streaming service and one-day delivery at a disposable price.

For Amazon, the whole idea of ​​Prime could be customer retention. In 2016, more than 90% of Amazon Prime subscribers in the United States renewed their subscription for a second year. For an e-commerce business, a retention rate of more than 30% is essential. In other words, Amazon can afford to ignore complaints about the terrible search engine on Prime Video.

Meanwhile, for a company like Netflix, providing subscribers with a good search experience is key to its business: a poor search experience can lead to subscriber not renewing their account and increase churn.


Jeff Bezos once said that if we had 4.5 million customers, we should have not one but 4.5 million stores. Translation: Providing highly personalized and curated products and services based on user tastes and preferences is Amazon’s top priority.

However, it would be wrong to say that Amazon is not bothered. On the contrary, a lot of work has been done over the years, and Amazon has spent a lot of money to improve its recommendation engine. In fact, Amazon has been using algorithms for recommendations since 1998.

About 35% of Amazon’s sales are generated by its recommendation engine. However, the algorithm behind Amazon Prime Video somehow falls short. And this is not a recent trend. Users have been raising the issue for some time now on social media and Amazon forums.

Algorithms play an important role in keeping viewers hooked. The success of companies such as Netflix and Spotify is driven by their superior recommendation engines.

Every year, Netflix saves billions of dollars by recommending the right content. In 2006, Netflix offered a cash prize of £1 million to anyone who could improve its algorithm.

Each algorithm is different and not all recommendation algorithms are the same. For example, Netflix uses a different methodology to recommend movies and TV shows to its users compared to Amazon. Netflix uses fuzzy matching, which means misspelled queries won’t have much of an impact on results. Fuzzy matching makes the user’s search experience more intuitive. This does not appear to be the case for Amazon Prime Video.

Content overload?

Netflix content is properly categorized and tagged based on its genre, actors, directors, and more. Meanwhile, Amazon Prime leaves a bad impression. Although Prime has more content than Netflix, Amazon was unable to tap into it due to its poor UX, UI and search features.

Amazon Prime has one of the largest streaming libraries. It must come as a surprise to many, but most content on Amazon Prime is user-uploaded. So anyone with the right to distribute a movie could download it for free on Prime. According to a 2020 report from the Wallstreet Journal, nearly two-thirds of titles on Amazon Prime Video are downloaded by users.

The content on Prime is significantly higher than on Netflix, Hulu or HBO Max. As of December 2019, Amazon Prime had 65,504 distinct titles on its platform, compared to Netflix’s 7,177. Content overload could be another reason for poor search experiences.