Influencers are using Amazon Live to make money from shopping livestreams as YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok eye the market

Carla Stevenné

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Some YouTube creators are turning to an unlikely place to kickstart growth and earn money: Amazon. 

Carla Stevenné is a full-time influencer who got her start on YouTube, where she has 256,000 subscribers. But after months of lackluster growth on the platform, she decided to try Amazon’s live shopping feature, called Amazon Live. 

“I saw how my YouTube channel was not getting the success that I had hoped for,” Stevenné said. “I decided to give Amazon Live my all.”

Stevenné first heard about the feature when an Amazon employee reached out to her in early 2020. Amazon is actively recruiting video influencers to join Amazon Live, the company said, though it declined to say how many are currently on the platform. Amazon is looking for creators in categories ranging from tech to beauty, home, and fashion. Anyone who is a part of the Amazon Influencers Program can join by downloading the Amazon Live Creator app.

Now, Stevenné spends most of her energy on Amazon — she streams there every weekday — and said she makes more money there than on any other platform.

“I really believe it has helped me reach a larger audience and new people,” Stevenné said. “I really suggest people who want to be an influencer or who have struggled on other platforms to go on Amazon Live.”

Stevenné is a part of a group of influencers who got their start on YouTube and are now exploring Amazon as a new platform for growth and revenue.

Similar to Stevenné, Shea Whitney (1.2 million YouTube subscribers) was recruited by Amazon in early 2020 to join the live shopping feature. Whitney said her Amazon Live earnings are starting to compete with her top stream of income: brand partnerships. 

“It’s been totally worth it for me and it has the potential to be one of my most lucrative things,” Whitney said.

Although livestreaming isn’t new, and more brands and creators have been experimenting with the format, live shopping is still a recent feature for influencers in the US (though it is very popular in Asia).

So far, however, the main problem for influencers has been driving traffic to Amazon. Unlike YouTube, Amazon doesn’t have a portal where users can see all of the Amazon influencers that they follow. And it’s not generally known as an influencer platform like YouTube or Instagram. Creators often have to rely on promoting when they are about to go live on Instagram or YouTube (where they already have an established following) as a way to push their followers to watch them on Amazon.

And while Amazon may have a short lead in developing live shopping features for a US audience, other platforms are actively working on their own versions. Top video platforms like TikTok and YouTube are eyeing live shopping and partnering with major retailers to help them build ecommerce capabilities.

Shea Whitney

How going live on Amazon works 

To livestream on Amazon, social-media creators must be part of the Amazon Influencer Program. To join, creators apply with their YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook account. Amazon Live opened to all Amazon Influencers in mid-July and it is a part of a few other Amazon programs geared toward influencers, like The Drop (made-on-demand collections designed by influencers).

Amazon’s Influencer Program operates as an extension of its online Associates Program, the company’s affiliate marketing program for creators, publishers, and bloggers. The commission rates on Amazon Live are the same as the affiliate program, ranging from 1% to 10%.

For every item the influencer mentions during a livestream, a special link is added within a carousel under the video directing viewers to the product.

“I order everything on my own and I send things back if I don’t like them,” Whitney said. “Shopping is now kind of a job for me. But I can then use those products in other areas of my business.”  

Some influencers have also partnered with brands for sponsored livestreams. Stevenné has worked with multiple brands on sponsored content for Amazon Live and these sponsored livestreams show up on the brand’s live Amazon page, she said. 

In a letter to creators shared with Insider, Amazon broke down a few tips and best practices for going live:

  • “Create live only promotions for your viewers to give incentive for customers to join (exclusive product, first look, or limited time deals).”
  • “Promote across all marketing channels.”
  • “Show your products, don’t just talk about them.”

In an Amazon Live seminar for creators, the team suggested going live at least once a week, Stevenné said. She streams on Amazon every weekday at 11 a.m. EST. 

Stevenné and Whitney are both “A-List” creators, which means their livestreams are broadcasted on the homepage of Amazon, and their followers get a notification every time they go live. 

Stevenné also draws in viewership by sharing when she’s about to go live on Instagram Stories, and she’ll occasionally reupload a livestream to her YouTube channel, and add affiliate links within the description of the video. 

Shea Whitney

Can Amazon Live compete with YouTube and TikTok?

TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube have all made a push into ecommerce, introducing new features and shoppable storefronts.

TikTok is working on a new live shopping feature, similar to QVC. And last year, the app announced a feature that allows users to buy products in the app in partnership with Walmart and Shopify.

On Instagram, creators and brands can sell products within their Instagram Live and followers can purchase these products without leaving the app. This feature works for influencers who are doing a sponsored livestream with the goal of directing followers to buy products from one specific brand. The feature also works for influencers who are looking to sell their own products. But these aren’t affiliate links and influencers won’t get a commission off the sale.

YouTube is also eyeing live shopping, and the company is currently beta testing a feature that streamlines the option to buy the items a creator mentions, which could be part of the new “integrated shopping experience” YouTube recently teased coming later this year. This new feature could directly compete with Amazon Live and drive influencers who are using other live shopping platforms back to YouTube, especially if these influencers already have an established following on the platform. 

Whitney said she met with YouTube about a year ago to talk through introducing a live shopping feature, but she hasn’t heard anything since.

She’s unsure if she will use a live shopping tool on YouTube and said it depends on how the commission rates compare to Amazon. 

“My only concern is, what if the affiliate commission is almost next to nothing?” Whitney said. 

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