How a ScoutIQ feature that claims to measure sales on Amazon actually misleads sellers, and is worse than Amazon Sales Rank.
Video: “Busted – Testing The Accuracy of ScoutIQ and eScore”
The strange case of something called “eScore”
“Escore” is a figure used by three tools (ScoutIQ, and two lesser-known tools: RepriceIQ and Eflip) to express the number of Amazon sales for books in the last 180 days. It is marketed as a more accurate version of Amazon Sales Rank (aka “best seller rank”). Many thousands of Amazon sellers trust and rely on eScore to make buying decisions that impact their business.
The things I intend to show with this article:
- Escore is inaccurate and does not measure Amazon sales.
- ScoutIQ’s claims about eScore are demonstrably false.
- Escore is not just imperfect, but a worse way to measure sales than 6 or 12-month average Amazon Sales Rank.
- Its very easy to prove eScore’s sales figures are false through public data accessible to everyone.
I’m going to rely on hard data that can be scrutinized by anyone – no subjectivity or “trust me on this one”. Just raw charts.
Deconstructing eScore – In Two Parts
In Part One, I’m going in-depth into what eScore claims to be, and why it’s significant.
In Part Two (the fun part), I’m giving 10+ screenshot examples of eScore, comparing them with actual sales stats, and showing how eScore is so inaccurate, its often not even a good estimate of sales.
By the end of this article, the only defense of eScore will be something like this:
“Escore is a rough estimate of sales that is less accurate than average Amazon sales rank.”
So what is ScoutIQ?
Let’s back up..
Scanning apps are basically mandatory for any serious seller, and allow you to look up the value (among other data) for any product on Amazon by scanning it with your phone.
The secret to how ScoutIQ promotes
In the ecosystem of scanning apps, my (unscientific) observation is that newer sellers tend to choose ScoutIQ, whereas more experienced sellers choose Scoutly.
When you’re newer, you tend to look to a “guru” to tell you what to do. And ScoutIQs whole marketing plan seem to be paying Amazon “influencers” (YouTubers, etc) to promote.
Here’s how that promotion breaks down:
- For every customer referred to ScoutIQ, they pay $8.80 (every month).
- For every customer referred to Scoutly, they pay $5.25 (also every month).
Why do you see more people promoting ScoutIQ than Scoutly? Quite simply, they pay 50% more.
(Related: I’m using some referral links in this article. But I’d be getting paid 50% more if I wrote a piece on how great ScoutIQ is).
I’m not lobbing any criticism at the paid promoters of ScoutIQ. While it is a worse app than Scoutly, its not so much worse that it would be negligent to promote one over the other.
So if you’re a YouTuber and one app is paying 15% commissions at a $35 sale, and ScoutIQ comes along with 20% commissions at $44, then I wouldn’t exactly call it criminal to promote ScoutIQ. Suggesting that is not my intent here.
But Scoutly doesn’t play the wine-and-dine influencers game. They just quietly make a better scanning app and have been doing so for almost 20 years (vs about 5 for ScoutIQ).
Scoutly is slightly less slick looking, and doesn’t have every flashy internet YouTube guru guy promoting it, but most serious sellers know: Scoutly is simply better (a subject for a future article).
(Sidenote: Scoutly has its own version of eScore, but they had the dignity to not give it a cheesy name. Their figure is simply labeled “days with sales.” But Scoutly completely destroys ScoutIQ by also showing average sales rank – the best measure of sales there is).
The pandemic of marketing hype in the Amazon world
While I’m singling out “eScore” in this article, this is about an issue much bigger. So even if you don’t use ScoutIQ (or Eflip or RepriceIQ), you’ll still get a crash course in a trick companies use to separate you from your money. ScoutIQ is far from the only example.
The scheme basically goes like this:
- Repackage a feature that is not new, not proprietary, or doesn’t do what it claims.
- Give it a new, cool-sounding (or cheesy-sounding) name.
- Announce you’re the only tool/service that has “<cool-sounding name thing>.”
- Avoid explaining how the cool-sounding-name-thing works, or why it’s so special.
- Trick customers into using your product so they can access cool-sounding-name-thing.
If you have a truly new feature that offers real value and you invented it, by all means give it a cool name and shout it from the rooftops. You deserve to be rewarded for honest innovation.
But the formula I describe above (taking something not new, hiding how it works, and claiming it as a new “revolutionary” thing) has become a problem in the Amazon selling world, particularly with software tools.
I’ve seen examples of this for a long time, but took real notice of it when researching an article on repricing software tools. As I took a close look at each of the 30+ tools out there, I realized two things:
- Many (if not most) claimed to have a proprietary feature no other repricer had.
- When you ask them to elaborate, they clam up and refuse to explain how their “proprietary feature” works.
Some of the terminology repricers use to try and impress customers is pretty cheesy and hilarious. Some examples I found:
- “Dynamic Sales Velocity Trigger”
- “Next Generation AI-Power”
- “Buy Box Hunter“
- “Hybrid Profit Harvester”
The word-gymnastics are pretty hilarious, and there’s one common denominator: When you try to ask what these “proprietary” cool-named features do, they refuse to tell you. Every time.
What is ScoutIQ’s official explanation of eScore?
Back to eScore….
Scout IQ defines it as:
“eScore measures the number of days out of the past 180 days that a book has sold at least one copy.”
Here’s a screenshot from ScoutIQs website:
So if you scan a book and it shows an eScore of 50, ScoutIQ is claiming that book has sold 50 copies in the last 6 months.
So far, so good. If sellers could know the number of sales in a given period (vs an estimation, which is what average sales rank provides), that would be huge. Every seller should clamor for this.
But their explanation raises a lot of questions:
- Does ScoutIQ claim eScore is an exact expression of sales, or an estimate?
- Is eScore merely ScoutIQ’s interpretation of Amazon sales rank?
- If not, where does ScoutIQ get their sales data from (Amazon doesn’t make this public)?
As far as I was able to tell, everything that ScoutIQ has to say about eScore is summed up in their article “eScore Defined.”
Key points from the “eScore Defined” article:
- (again) eScore tells you how days a book has sold in the last 180 days.
- Escore is a nearly-exact figure (not a rough estimate)
- If a book is selling more than once per day, eScore is unable to calculate sales and simply gives a score of “150+.”
- “eScore forms the backbone of ScoutIQ’s Smart Triggers,” i.e. ScoutIQ will tell you whether to buy a book or not based on the eScore.
Let’s examine each of these claims briefly:
“eScore tells you how many times a book has sold in 180 days.”
Again, if eScore actually does this, this is significant. No seller can argue this would be great.
“Escore is a nearly-exact figure (not a rough estimate).”
A specific quote from their eScore explainer page is “If a book has an eScore of 3, it means it has sold 3 times in the past 6 months.” No mention of “sold approximately 3 times.” Escore is stated to be exact and definitive.
“If a book is selling more than once per day, eScore unable to calculate sales and simply gives a score of “150+.”
Basically they’re saying any book that sells more than once per day gets the same score of 150+. That means a book with an Amazon Sales Rank of 1 and a sales rank of 100,000 get the same score. Keep in mind the #1 title on Amazon is selling at least 10,000 times more than the 100,000th bestselling title. They get the same score, but they aren’t even in the same solar system in terms of sales.
Since eScore is forming the basis for its users purchasing decisions, the question becomes:
“Are there any books you would buy at a rank of 1 that you wouldn’t buy at a rank of 100,000 (remember, these will have the same eScore)?”
The answer for me personally is occasionally “yes,” but probably 95% of the time “no.” So maybe 5% of the time I’m going to be making a bad purchasing decision based on this blindspot of eScore. Not the hugest deal, but not great.
Where this blindspot does cost sellers money is in buying books that aren’t profitable unless you price them in 3rd place, 4th place, or beyond. It’s totally reasonable to expect you can get a sale at those prices for a book ranked 10,000. Whereas it’s dramatically riskier when a book is ranked 100,000. eScore prevents you sourcing any books like this without taking major risks. Unacceptable for a serious seller.
eScore becomes an ever greater liability is in repricing. And this is relevant because eScore is used in a lesser-known repricing tool called RepriceIQ. I wouldn’t price a book ranked 1 anything like a book ranked 10,000 or 100,000. These are totally different stratospheres. Forcing users to price a book ranked 100k the same way as a book ranked 5k by giving them the same eScore is pretty insane. And using eScore for repricing is simply bonkers.
“eScore forms the backbone of ScoutIQ’s Smart Triggers.”
I.e. ScoutIQ will tell you whether to buy a book or not based on the eScore. This is significant because it means there’s a lot riding on the accuracy of eScore. If its wrong, you’re either passing on books you should have bought, or bought books you should have passed on.
Every app has a version of ScoutIQ’s “smart triggers.” These are “buy” or “pass” calculations based on settings you that you create. For example, you tell the app “Tell me to buy if the sales rank is better than 1 million and the net profit is at least $15.” Then if you scan a book that first those criteria, the app alerts you to buy that book.
If you’re relying on ScoutIQ triggers to make buying decisions, you’ll want to keep reading…
My history with ScoutIQ (or lack thereof)
By the time ScoutIQ came out in 2017 (?), I’d been using Scoutly for almost 10 years. There were other scanning apps, but I’d tried them all and Scoutly was objectively better.
So of course I gave ScoutIQ a look when it came out. It didn’t even pass my 30-second “non-newbie-seller test.” Literally the only claim of superiority it made was its “eScore” feature, which it described as “game changing.” It was immediately clear to me that eScore was a gimmick that didn’t offer anything over Amazon sales rank, and I dismissed ScoutIQ as a trinket for newer sellers who didn’t know any better.
Any advantages I found to ScoutIQ were purely cosmetic: Slicker UI, dancing-monkey internet promotion, and Instagram hype. Nothing that in any way translated to a better product.
I never thought about ScoutIQ again, until a few months ago. (More on that in a second…)
The world has average Amazon Sales Rank. Why does it need eScore?
Remember, eScore’s claim is that Amazon sales rank is misleading. Which is true. (I’ve been saying this since 2012). This is not groundbreaking, and no one disputes it.
The short version of why is this: A book can jump from a rank of, say, 10 million to 150,000 with a single sale. If you looked up the book the moment it sold, you’d think the book was in very high demand, when in fact it just sold the only copy its going to sell in the next 5 years.
This is Amazon Selling 101 and there is absolutely nothing groundbreaking about this observation.
What is not misleading is average Amazon sales rank. I.e. Taking Amazon’s sales rank over a given period (6 or 12 months), then averaging it out to give a clearer picture.
There is nothing confusing or mystical about an average Sales Rank figure. There have been tons of sales rank charts published over the years so that all Amazon sellers know roughly what an any average rank translates to in terms of sales.
It takes 30 seconds to understand average Sales Rank just as well as eScore – and sales rank gives a more accurate picture.
ScoutIQ’s main competitor, Scoutly, does display average Sales Rank.
Since Sales Rank can be fuzzy and inexact in terms of how it translates to sales, then a true innovation would be a new figure that calculated the exact number of sales in a given period. But that’s not what eScore is (despite its claims, as I’ll show in a minute…)
The reason I was so suspicious of eScore from Day One is that I knew that any sales data had to come from Amazon directly. It was impossible for any third party app to access that information. As such eScore could never be anything more than an interpretation of already inexact sales rank data. This is a key point.
If all ScoutIQ claimed was “eScore is simpler expression of Amazon sales rank, that had some limitations average sales rank does not,” that would be an honest claim. As I’ll explain, their claims are exaggerated.
If eScore is wrong, why does it matter?
- People are making buying decisions based on their data.
- ScoutIQs primary selling point is eScore.
As covered, if eScore was inaccurate, it would have significant implications for the users of ScoutIQ (and even more so, RepriceIQ). Any data that sellers base buying or repricing decisions on is significant, and has a significant impact on sellers’ businesses.
As for #2: Other than some minor bell-and-whistle features and cosmetic differences, ScoutIQ doesn’t claim to be better than Scoutly in any substantive way. So their business plan seems to rest on the Amazon selling community’s belief in the accuracy of eScore.
Why I started to get suspicious of eScore
As mentioned earlier, I started thinking about this problem (of companies inventing fake or exagerated “features,” giving them cheesy names, and then selling them to people) when I was researching Amazon repricing software.
Shortly after that article, I saw multiple back-to-back complaints about eScore in various Facebook groups. Which got me thinking eScore could be an example of this “all hype, no substance, cheesy name” phenomenon. Some of the screenshots showed a clear inaccuracy in eScore.
I’ve founded Amazon software tools that rely on large sets of Amazon data. It’s a messy game, and I know personally that blindspots are invevitable. So I definitely didn’t set out to play a “gotcha” game based on anecdotal screenshots of random items to make some ambush-style point. But since so many sellers depend on it, I wanted to know if eScore was real.
I think the final straw was seeing the weird defensive response in the Facebook groups to sellers expressing concern about eScore. There seemed to be a collective denial that something could be wrong.
What happened when I contacted ScoutIQ support
After reading everything there is about eScore, I still had questions.
Remember, there is only one way eScore could be better than average Amazon sales rank: If it was more precise. Escore already admits its worse than average rank in its “1 to 100,000 rank” blindspot (where all 100k-or-better books get an eScore of 151+).
So I wanted to hear in Scout IQs own words:
- Is eScore accurate?
- How accurate?
- And can they name any way its better than average Amazon Sales Rank?
Pretty simple questions. Let’s dive in:
Scout IQ’s response:
It’s typical for customer support to send a boilerplate answer and miss the point of a simple question. Which happened pretty egregiously here.
(The link in their response was to their eScore explainer article, but I asked about average sales rank, not current rank).
Still at Square One. So I asked again:
Scout IQ’s response:
The link provided was to an article that was in no way relevant to my question about average Amazon Sales Rank (the article was about why Full Time FBA’s sales rank percentage chart was inaccurate – not even close to being relevant to my question).
The next part was important: ScoutIQ confirmed their claim that eScore is not an estimate – it purports to be an exact number of Amazon sales over a six month period. Again, if accurate, eScore would unquestionably be superior to average Amazon Sales Rank, and the issue would be settled.
Reasonable question. If I’m an Amazon seller making business-critical decisions based on their data, I have an absolute right to know how its calculated. Blind faith isn’t gong to work when my business is on the line.
And this is where they made a grievous mistake, and gave the most insulting possible answer:
Sit down. Shut up. Gives us your money. And don’t ask questions.
Hard pass on that.
Here’s a message to the Amazon software world from all sellers with dignity: If you’re going to try and sell us something, then not tell us what it is or how it works – then that’s not going to work for us. Literally never.
We will form an Amazon seller gang and run you out of our neighborhood. Don’t even try.
I really don’t like being told “give us your money and don’t ask questions.” That’s probably the worst response they could have given.
I had no intention of doing an article about eScore before this response. But now I was on the warpath.
So I did the unthinkable. Something I thought I would never, ever do…
I downloaded ScoutIQ.
Here is what I found…
Putting the ScoutIQ “eScore” to the test (10 screeshots)
I scanned a bunch of books using ScoutIQ, and compared the eScore to the sales graph. If eScore is accurate, the eScore should match the sales charts. Pretty simple.
Some notes before we dive in:
- Because eScore doesn’t estimate sales for high demand books, I chose slower-selling titles that allowed me the ability to compare eScore with actual sales figures (via in-app sales graphs) more reasily.
- All scans done on March 26th and March 30th using database mode.
- Sales charts are cropped to include the full month of September, which is a range of almost 7 months – that’s 3 to 4 weeks longer than eScore’s range. This means I’m being extremely lenient with eScore here and giving them lots of slack.
- I scanned about 70 books Most of them had an inaccurate eScore. The examples here is a mix of the worst, as well as others included simply to show the variety of ways ScoutIQs data is bad.
To count sales in the sales chart, count the number of dramatic drops downward in the charts (towards the 100k range). That’s always a sale.
Escore: 11 sales in last six months.
Sales chart: 5 sales (possibly 6)
Notes: This perfectly highlights how inaccurate (and almost untethered to reality) eScore is. ScoutIQ is claiming this book has sold 11 times in the last 6 months. The sales chart clearly shows a maximum of 6 sales, and probably 5.
The reason I say “maximum” is that this book was scanned on March 30th, and that first sale (on the far left) pretty clearly happened the first half of September. So the true number of 6 month sales is almost certainly 5 – less that half the number of sales eScore claims. Even at 6 sales, eScore is totally disconnected from reality.
Sales chart: 4 sales in last six months.
Notes: That’s a 40% difference. Again, it would still be a mediocre estimate if ScoutIQ claimed eScore was an “estimate.” But eScore claims to be exact. And you can see here its off. 40% off.
Escore: No sales.
Sales chart: At least 4 sales.
Notes: This is an extreme “difference of opinion” between eScore and sales charts. While this book isn’t exactly a title any seller should be excited to find, the wildly inaccurate eScore isn’t helping. A book selling zero copies in six months and a book selling 4 copies are wildly different scenarios that would impact the buying decision for any book. The difference between eScore and reality here is so far apart, it’s absurd.
(I’m not even mentioning how inaccurate the Amazon Sales Rank is here. It looks like ScoutIQ’s database hasn’t been updated in literally 6 months. That’s bad.)
Escore: Two sales
Sales chart: No sales in last six months (that sale on the far left is before the vertical grey line, which means it happened in August.)
Notes: This is the reverse of the last example: Saying a book has sold multiple copies in the last six months, when it has sold zero. With this eScore error, sellers are investing in inventory thinking it is selling regularly, when it definitely isn’t selling.
Escore: No sales
Sales chart: One sale in last six months
Notes: Not as bad as some previous examples, but again: Saying a book isn’t selling at all, when it has a very clear sale in the last 8 weeks, is clearly a “misrepresentation” of the truth. The difference between a book not selling at all, and selling once is huge.
Escore: 12 sales
Sales chart: 5 (maybe 6)
Notes: A massive inaccuracy here. I’ve been cropping these a little wide for context, but remember anything to the left of that vertical grey line happened in August. This looks like 5 sales, but you see a drop followed a day or so later by another small drop, that could be a sixth sale. That’s five or six sales in 6 months. eScore isn’t even close to accurate here.
Escore: 4 sales
Sales chart: 1.
Notes: Note that first “drop” is clearly in early September, at least 2 weeks outside the 6 month scope of eScore. Another one that is off by over 100%.
Escore: 2 sales
Sales chart: 4.
Notes: Yet another eScore that is off by 100%.(That first drop shows a change from a sales rank of approx. 4 million to approx. 2 million. That’s hard to interpret, since a sale should drop the rank to around 100k).
Escore: 11 sales
Sales chart: 8.
Notes: eScore is off by 30% here, possibly 45%. There’s an example of a drop followed by another slight drop what looks like a day or two later. Could be a sale, maybe not. Either way, not a “next to zero” margin of error as ScoutIQ claims. Not even a good estimate.
Notes: This example does not highlight a discrepancy between eScore and sales. Instead, this highlights a discrepancy between eScore and Amazon Sales Rank. If this book truly has no Amazon Sales Rank, it means it has never sold a single copy on Amazon.
Let’s give eScore the benefit of the doubt and say it had a hiccup and this book is selling frequently, and the Sales Rank is showing temporarily blank for some reason. I still wanted to include an example of this to highlight how generally poor ScoutIQ’s data is compared to Scoutly. Some gaps in a database are inevitable, but in a quick survey I found dozens of examples of:
- Books with a Sales Rank and no eScore.
- Books with an eScore but no Sales Rank.
- Books with decent demand and value coming up blank and showing “not in our database.”
- Books that hadn’t been updated in ScoutIQ’s database for 3+ months.
I could have included dozens of examples of weird data like the one above.
An app with a stale database and huge gaps is a disaster for sellers who depend on them for their business.
These are just 10 examples. Raw data. Screenshots. Not a whole lot that can be debated here.
eScore is not the exact calculation of sales it claims to be. It’s often not even close to reality.
What would the world’s most fanatical ScoutIQ fan say to all this?
I’m not sure if there’s anything left to defend after this. ScoutIQ has pretty clearly been caught exaggerating eScore.
I think some will say “eScore may not be accurate, but its an okay estimate.”
I’m a broken record at this point, but average sales rank is also an “estimate,” and an even better one.
The only argument I can imagine for relying on eScore at this point is for sellers who don’t want to take 30 seconds and learn how to read Amazon Sales Rank.
A lot of people will probably switch to Scoutly, which has these advantages:
- Scoutly displays average Amazon Sales Rank.
- Scoutly has its own version of eScore, for those who want it.
- Scoutly is cheaper.
What we’ve learned about eScore
Let’s recap what eScore purports to be, what we uncovered, and the difference between those two.
Recap: What eScore claims
A nearly-exact display of sales over the last 180 days, with almost no margin of error.
Recap: What the data shows
Escore is at best a rough estimate, and often not even good at that.
There is simply no measure by which eScore is better than average Amazon Sales Rank.
What I am NOT saying about eScore
I’m not saying it is a 100% made up number.
What I AM saying about eScore
I am saying it is a mostly made up number, only lightly tethered to reality.
If we’re going to admit now that eScore is merely an estimate, I’m saying that the best “estimate” already exists in the form of average Amazon Sales Rank, a figure provided by Scoutly (and others), which does not have the blindspots that eScore admits to (the 1 to 100,000 rank blindspot).
In other words, eScore is an attempt to sell a product by taking something that is not revolutionary, making exaggerated claims about what it does, then selling it to newer Amazon sellers who don’t know any better.
Even more simply: eScore is a poor, less accurate substitute for average Amazon Sales Rank.
Your to-do list
That concludes a public service message I should have written 5 years ago.
PS: Thoughts? Noticed similar issues with ScoutIQ? Drop a comment below.