Amazon isn’t the only company trying this type of hawk with an American audience. With Instagram, some influencers can sell products in livestreams via Instagram Shopping. Facebook took similar steps for small businesses this year. TikTok live streamed a shopping event with Wal-Mart. And both the Estée Lauder Companies and L’Oreal Group have hosted streams for some of their beauty brands.
“Everyone is thinking about it,” said Mark Yuan, co-founder of And Luxe, a livestream e-commerce consultancy in New York. “But they’re rushing there because of the pandemic. Before they had a choice. Now they have no choice. “
Mr. Yuan and Zoe Zhang founded And Luxe to bring Western brands to China. Recently, however, there has been an increase in inquiries from western companies trying to get into ecommerce live streaming. So far, said Mr. Yuan, no American company has completely mastered it. For him, success means more than just adding a video to the typical e-commerce experience. Instead, what is needed is a mix of content that is not tied to shopping, but can attract new viewers, limited-time offers, and even products that are exclusive to that livestream. That goes for any big tech company trying to expand an audience.
“If you want to become an e-commerce livestream marketplace,” said Yuan, “you have to change a lot.”
While e-commerce livestreams are still a niche business in the US, they’re big business in China, where they account for about 9 percent of the country’s $ 63 billion online market. Kim Kardashian West streamed a popular Chinese influencer and sold her perfume inventory in minutes after 13 million people signed up. At least one Chinese college offers e-commerce live streaming as a degree. Chinese retailers also innovated during the pandemic innovation, with more streams focusing on one-on-one conversations and store tours.
But the pandemic seems to be luring more people into testing Amazon Live while stuck at home looking for new ways to connect. Felicia Jones, a North Carolina influencer focused on beauty and home decor, said Amazon reached out last year to ask her to join the live program. She got out of the shower one day in November planning on using a couple of hair products she got from Amazon when she decided to try a stream for the first time. It took a few minutes to figure the app out, and it spoke to an audience that eventually reached 1,500 people. Now she tries to stream regularly on Amazon.
“If I’m not streaming every day, I’ll think about streaming every day,” Ms. Jones said.
According to the analysis Amazon sends her, her livestream typically reaches between 1,000 and 10,000 viewers, according to Ms. Jones, although simultaneous viewers can reach hundreds. It’s successful enough that it has achieved the A-list, an internal status that offers its benefits such as better placement of videos and higher priority for support issues.