28 January 2020
Amazon has launched a service that live-streams videos to help online sales. Photo: Reuters
Amazon has launched a service that live-streams videos to help online sales. Photo: Reuters

How Amazon Live takes a page from TV shopping channels

US online shopping behemoth Amazon has launched a live shopping channel called Amazon Live. It’s a home-shopping streaming-video hub on the Amazon website and app that many consumers are probably still unaware of.

There are three major types of channels on Amazon Live. The first type offers content in popular topics like cooking, fashion, entertainment, fitness, etc. They resemble traditional TV programs, and Amazon produces this sort of content on its own.

The second type is co-hosted by celebrities and key opinion leaders (KOLs), and the third type is created by independent merchants selling on Amazon.

On all these channels, information and price of related products will appear at the bottom of the screen. By clicking on the link, viewers would be able to order them online.

For example, they can put kitchen gadgets or ingredients of a recipe into the shopping cart when they watch a cooking show.

Amazon Live also has some short dramas. Beneath the video are links of clothing, beauty products, watches, and even cars that actors and actresses wear or use in the video.

The basic concept of Amazon Live is much similar to shopping TV channels a decade ago. The problem with such TV channels was that viewers had to make phone calls if they liked an item promoted in the program, so the conversion rate tended to be low. It also costs quite a bit to buy airtime.

In Amazon’s case, it can in theory open as many channels as it likes with negligible extra cost.  And placing an order online only takes a few clicks, which is much easier.

TV channels are required by regulators to demarcate programs and ads in a clear manner. Amid this arrangement, many viewers would just switch channels when they see TV commercials. By contrast, new media is not regulated by existing rules, and viewers are used to embedded ads. That is another advantage Amazon Live enjoys.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Feb 14

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist