Amazon Leans Into Livestream Shopping to Promote Prime Day Deals
More than a decade after livestream shopping first took off in China, it’s yet to reach critical mass in the U.S. Now, Amazon could finally be changing that.
Companies like Shopify, TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, and Amazon have all invested heavily in live selling in recent years. Although Facebook famously bowed out of its investments in live streaming and ended support for its Live Shopping feature in March, Amazon is forging ahead and pinning the success of live streaming to its popular Prime Day promotion.
The company kicked off Prime Day 2023 with a day-long livestream to provide an interactive user experience for shoppers.
“As the longtime leader in e-commerce, Amazon needs to find new ways to drive revenue to continue to grow. Live shopping is a perfect fit as a proven way to boost shopper engagement and product sales,” says Joe Kwong, head of business development at Agora, a real-time engagement platform that powers interactive streaming experiences. “Additionally, as the list of goods for sale on Amazon has dramatically increased over time, live shopping is a perfect way to guide shoppers in the buying process, so they don’t have to sift through millions of product listings. This provides a better experience for shoppers while helping sellers and driving growth for Amazon.
Livestream shopping, which involves sellers broadcasting live video of themselves talking about products while viewers ask questions and make purchases in real time, started as a social media trend in China nearly a decade ago. By 2016, 46% of all internet users in China were regularly watching livestream content. That was around the time brands began to integrate sales channels into their livestreams, and shoppers grew more comfortable with the idea of purchasing the items they watched on screen in real-time. In the years since, livestream shopping has grown to become a $512 billion market.
Despite that, livestream shopping has struggled thus far to take off in the U.S.
In 2022, TikTok began to test its live shopping function in the U.S., giving brands access to a built-in payment system, so customers could buy products without leaving the company’s platform. YouTube and Shopify soon followed suit, announcing they would expand their live shopping partnership in June 2022.
Amazon, for its part, has held steady in its belief in live streaming as a sales tool. The company launched its Amazon Live platform in 2019, and in 2021 and 2022, it ran live streaming events tied to Prime Day promotions.
Social media influencers who host livestream shopping shows on Amazon can earn commissions ranging from 2% to 20% depending on the category and items they’re selling. With popular influencers potentially selling thousands of items in a single show, the financial stakes are high.
Kwong believes that Amazon’s commitment to live streaming could serve as an indicator to other retailers and retail platforms that now is the time to get involved.
In its most recent report, Coresight Research projected livestream sales in the U.S. would reach $50 billion by the end of this year, spurred by the South Korean internet giant Naver’s acquisition of Poshmark and the growing popularity of TikTok Shops, which is a way for users to buy products within TikTok’s mobile app. eBay is also reportedly interested in expanding eBay Live from its current focus on fashion and collectibles into other shopping categories.
Although Facebook’s shift toward the metaverse likely led to the early end of live shopping functionality on Facebook and Instagram in 2023, Kwong still sees the possibility that Meta may eventually reverse course — particularly if other major players like Amazon continue pushing further into the medium.
“It will be interesting to see if Meta reverses course on that decision as it shifts efforts away from the conceptual metaverse back toward traditional social media with its new Twitter competitor, Threads,” he says. “The early buzz around Threads provides Meta with a good opportunity to integrate high-quality e-commerce functionality there early to make the platform more appealing to e-commerce brands. With Instagram as Meta’s most video-focused platform, it’s also possible we see a return of Instagram live shopping with the previous bugs worked out.”