In my own research, I haven’t seen much clarity in terms of direct response to this question. Traditionally, I’ve worked with experienced high volume sellers in optimizing their programs, though I recently had the opportunity to assist a (brand spanking new) seller in setting up his account and offering his products for sale. Given few have succinctly addressed this question previously, I thought I’d share my recent observations.
According to Amazon:
Featured Merchant Qualifications
Sellers are evaluated based on factors that have been carefully chosen in an effort to give customers the best shopping experience. Featured Merchant status is evaluated based on the following criteria:
ODR (Order Defect Rate)–ODR is based on customer feedback, A-to-z claims and chargebacks
Other seller performance metrics
Customer shopping experience offered on an item, such as speed of delivery, shipping options, price, and 24×7 customer service (including through the seller’s participation in Fulfillment by Amazon)
Time and experience on the Amazon selling platform
Status as a Pro Merchant
A seller’s Featured Merchant status and eligibility to win the Buy Box may change over time based on the seller’s performance against the eligibility criteria mentioned above and the criteria is subject to change. Sustained seller performance and low ODR will help achieve, and preserve, a seller’s Featured Merchant status.
Note: Specific performance metric targets can vary by category and are subject to change. Earning Featured Merchant status in one category does not automatically qualify a seller for Featured Merchant status for all categories. Some categories do not offer the benefits of Featured Merchant status.
Recent Observation, see below:
In this case, it took the merchant less than 30 days from account creation with 1 piece of neutral feedback and roughly $4,300 in sales to achieve featured merchant status. The result? Given the ability to obtain the buy box (ie, the Add to Cart button on Amazon) with Featured Merchant Status, the merchant has seen a significant increase in sales.
UPDATE (07.24.2013): Interestingly enough, though we broke the 90-day standard, it seems that Amazon granted Featured Merchant status for this particular merchant on a categorical basis. The merchant primarily sold rugs over the last 30 days. I decided to “test” their newly attained status by offering products for sale in alternate categories. Surprisingly, they were granted the buy box with new listings in Health & Beauty, but not Electronics or Computers.
Merchants interested in selling on Amazon that plan to offer more than 1000 products should reach out to the company directly as they’re known to create exemptions and/or reductions in the timeline of accounts looking to obtain Featured Merchant Status.