Amazon launches QVC-style live shopping in India

Amazon has launched a QVC-style live stream in India, the company announced on Friday, expanding its offering in the key overseas market, where it has invested more than $6.5 billion to win over customers.

The retail group has launched a new service, called Amazon Live, bringing in an army of more than 150 creators to host live streams and link products to videos. The idea is that influencers, who already have a large following, take their fans to the shopping app and influence them to buy products. Every time they manage to sell, they get a share.

Amazon Live currently hosts live streams across a variety of categories, including electronics, fashion and beauty, and home decor in the app. The videos had an average of 30 to 600 simultaneous views at the time of publication. The company says it will do 15 live streams a day between 10am and 1am. Over 450 hours of content are expected to be streamed during the company’s current festive sale.

The launch comes after Flipkart, owned by Walmart, Amazon’s main rival in India, also tested a similar offer on its app earlier this year. Amazon itself quietly launched Live in the US in 2019, trying to get a piece of the nascent shopping trend popularized by YouTube, TikTok and Instagram.

Live content on Amazon will include broadcasts from traditional celebrities including Bollywood actor Parineeti Chopra and Indian badminton player Pusarla Venkat Sindhu (PV Sindhu). In addition to offering live streams, Amazon Live will allow users to communicate directly with influencers through comments. This brings a demand for moderation – to avoid cases of abuse and hatred.

Kishore Thota, director of customer experience and marketing at Amazon India, said in an interview with TechCrunch that the company wants to bring diverse “thought leaders” into specific spaces. “Although we take what we call celebrities, we look at topics where they are valued for their thought leadership in this space. So a movie celebrity might be there, but it’s not just because there are movie celebrities, they’re movie celebrities, but they probably know very well how to dress for a special event,” he said.

Live shopping originally became popular in China, where many influencers regularly sell millions of dollars worth of items in a single stream. Austin Li, a popular influencer, sold goods worth over a billion dollars in one session.

But whether the model will work in India remains a big question.

Meanwhile, New Delhi is preparing to tighten rules to weed out fake, paid product reviews on e-commerce sites and social media platforms. A regulatory framework targeting people who advertise goods will be introduced soon, the government said. Amazon said it will always ensure it complies with local laws.

Amazon Live section of the Indian shopping app. Image credits: TechCrunch

On its FAQ page, Amazon identified the influencer program as an extension of its Amazon Associates (affiliate) program. The company requires these influencers to have a YouTube, Instagram, TikTok or Facebook account to qualify.

Thota said Amazon uses its existing moderation techniques, including machine learning algorithms, to eliminate profanity in real time. While Amazon can encourage customers to buy new products through its live store experience, Thota said the company is not currently emphasizing the sales side of the change and is primarily focused on increasing customer engagement through broadcasting.

Influencers play a significant role in what they want to talk about during their shows, he said. However, he mentioned that over time sellers can turn into big influencers on the platform. “We’re also going to work to make it mainstream with small businesses, individual sellers and really empower the individuals with the best knowledge of that product in that space to become influential in that context,” he said.

According to a recent report by investment firm Sanford C. Bernstein, Amazon lags behind Flipkart in India on several key metrics and is struggling to make inroads into smaller Indian cities and towns. So far, Amazon has offered “a weaker proposition for ‘new’ commerce” in the country, the report added, pointing to innovations by Flipkart and unicorn social commerce platforms Meesho and DealShare.

One of the world’s last high-growth markets is at stake. E-commerce spending in India, the world’s second-largest online market, is expected to double to more than $130 billion by 2025.

The story has been updated with official comments from Amazon.

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