Amazon took in more than $30 billion in ad revenue last year, money spent to elevate some products over others in the hierarchy of attention.
It’s probably true that someone shopping on Amazon is going to either buy something or not… the purpose of the “ads” isn’t to amplify consumption, it’s to shift what someone chooses to buy.
It’s a zero sum game–paying for a slot increases market share by stealing sales from the competition.
The thing is: all of that spend is paid for by the consumer.
Search and discovery would work just fine without the ads. Our satisfaction with what we bought would be at least as good if organic search simply highlighted the best match.
This is simply a transfer of money from shoppers like us to one company with a shopping search engine.