Amazon is struggling to win over influencers in its push to become the dominant player in the US live-shopping market.
In 2019, Amazon launched its own live-shopping feature, Amazon Live, and in a play to be the internet’s live-shopping destination, the ecommerce giant has been recruiting popular TikTok and YouTube creators to use the tool. But it hasn’t been able to keep some of those influencers happy.
While Amazon has proven to be a valuable platform for influencers through its affiliate marketing program and storefront tools, a number of creators say Amazon Live just isn’t worth it.
Insider spoke with eight influencers and two talent managers who have experience with Amazon Live to learn how the platform works.
Most said that while Amazon Live as a product is easy to use, they did not like spending their time simply selling products — perhaps a bigger criticism of live-stream shopping, in general. When they did put in the time, most of the influencers said they didn’t find success in viewership or sales.
One influencer, who asked to remain anonymous to speak freely about Amazon’s terms, said they struggled to build an audience on the platform or bring their existing followers over to Amazon. A second creator said that talking about multiple products every week on Amazon was too time consuming for the amount of money they earned, and they ultimately stopped using the feature.
Still, there are some creators who have found success on Amazon Live. Beauty influencer Carla Stevenné streams every weekday, and last year, she told Insider that she made more money there than on any other platform. And fashion influencer Tiana Young Morris said that the money Amazon has offered her to post monthly streams — on top of the regular commission — is well worth it.
“I couldn’t turn it down,” said Morris, who streams for about an hour a week on Amazon. “A large portion of my income does come from Amazon.”
Morris’ top performing livestreams are about her favorite wigs sold on Amazon, and one of her more recent livestreams has garnered about 22,000 views, she said.
In response to questions about the success of Amazon Live, an Amazon spokesperson pointed out that some of the influencers who have used the feature since its launch are now full-time Amazon Live influencers, and for those that aren’t full time on Amazon, Live offers a way to diversify their revenue streams.
Amazon’s live-shopping feature is part of a larger push by many platforms to bring the concept of influencers selling products live and directly to fans to the US.
The feature functions as an extension of Amazon’s Influencer Program. For every item an influencer mentions during a livestream, a special link is added under the video directing viewers to the product. Creators earn a commission — between 1% and 10% — every time someone purchases a product with their link.
Although live commerce has taken off in other regions, like Asia, the social trend has struggled to gain mass popularity in the US.
“I didn’t like that it was basically just me selling stuff,” said the second creator, who gave up using the feature after one month.
“While I can go on TikTok Live and engage with my followers about all different subjects for hours, talking nonstop for an hour about Amazon products feels a lot like QVC,” a third creator said.
This may point to a bigger problem for the US live-shopping industry — that influencers find the idea inauthentic — rather than just to an issue with Amazon’s product. It seems that influencers who want do sell products would rather do “haul videos” on platforms like YouTube, where they have already built an audience, are more comfortable with the format, and can make money from advertisements or sponsorships, on top of any affiliate commissions.
For influencers who have found success on Amazon Live, actively promoting the stream on other platforms is key.
For instance, when Morris was first starting out, she would promote her Amazon stream on her primary social platforms like TikTok, where she has 345,000 followers.
“Most of the time I try to steer my audience that I already have from where they are to the Amazon Live,” she said, adding that she will also make videos for TikTok teasing an upcoming Amazon Live.
Employees on the Amazon Live team have been actively reaching out to influencers, offering them additional payments — on top of standard commission rates — to post live-shopping videos.
Morris, for example, is paid on a tiered system. She makes more money if her livestreams perform well, she said, and since she joined the platform in 2020, she has negotiated to earn more for her videos.
A fourth creator, who is popular on YouTube, declined one of these offers because they didn’t feel the need to prioritize another platform, they said, while a fifth creator said they regretted working with Amazon on a 2020 livestream. A sixth creator said they couldn’t convert followers.
One main complaint among creators was that they have struggled to build an audience on Amazon, despite promoting their livestreams on Instagram and other platforms.
“It was not successful,” said the fifth creator, who was paid by Amazon to post a livestream in partnership with a beauty brand.”I felt embarrassed. There were around 200 people on, maybe even less. I don’t think anyone actually shopped as I was live. But I will say that I have an Amazon Storefront, and that does really well for me.”
The sixth creator, who has over 400,000 followers on Instagram, said they couldn’t get their Instagram followers to convert into an Amazon Live audience. And without the audience, it wasn’t worth it to go live for 45 minutes to an hour each week.
“At the end of the day, if I am going to take this much time to go live, from the preparation to going live, I’d rather just do it in a place where there is an audience,” the sixth creator said.
And even if they could make time to post on Amazon Live, they said it was hard to sell for the full 45 minutes required.
“It’s really hard to find the time — and it’s harder to figure out how to fill that time,” the sixth creator said. “When I go live on Instagram or TikTok, where I have a lot of followers, just by chatting away the time goes away. When you’re pushing people to a new platform, and no one is there to begin with, I can only talk to myself for so long.”
“To be successful on Amazon Live, you have to be a host, you have to have a personality for it, and I don’t think everyone has that,” one talent manager said. “I think that is part of the challenge. It’s certainly not for everyone.”
But even with these problems, the sixth influencer said they did enjoy using the Amazon Live app.
“It was the most sophisticated live set up that I’ve used that was built into an app, which is nice,” they said.
But this just points back to the larger issue the US live-shopping industry is facing: Even with a well-developed product, the ecommerce giant is struggling to keep its creators happy.
Influencers also complained about the money spent buying products to review.
Unless the livestream is sponsored by a brand, Amazon doesn’t give influencers the products they talk about, three creators told Insider. Instead, influencers said they either had to spend their own money on Amazon buying products or use what they already had at home.
But an Amazon spokesperson said that part of what makes the content on Amazon Live successful is that creators discuss their favorite products with their audience, not just products they are gifted.
“We want creators to have full autonomy over which products they feature, review, and demonstrate as this is important in establishing trust, authenticity, and credibility with their audience,” the spokesperson said.
Still, the third creator, who said that Amazon required them to list a set number of products in each stream, thought the cost wasn’t worth that “authenticity.”
“You definitely expect to be given a stipend,” the third creator said. “Not to mention how many products you would have to be reviewing each month to accumulate four hours worth of reviews, and how much that would cost you. You end up just buying far more from Amazon yourself just to pull off the deliverable.”
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