Amazon is continuing to invest in Alexa's conversation technology. A recent rollout is following a number of smaller initiatives from Amazon’s smart speaker team, which -- while relatively under the radar -- total to a notable investment in making conversations with Alexa smoother. Altogether, these innovations might have a marginal impact on customer adoption of voice commerce. And it might also push small brands that have resisted building out Alexa integrations because of lack of resources to develop their own Alexa skills.
Shopify recently announced it was launching an esports team. While other companies have paid to sponsor a team or league, meaning it might get listed as the “official” e-commerce business of a given team, Shopify is actually building its own team from scratch -- investing in gaming talent and building up a following of fans for a new team. Shopify’s announcement represents one of the biggest bets yet from a retail brand on the esports space, which has attracted growing interest from brands in the last few years.
Amazon has been actively staffing up Live over the last year, pitting it in a race against Facebook, TikTok and even Mall of America and Klarna to pitch products through livestreams. To stand out, Amazon is making Live a more friendly space to brands -- and they’re doing that by recruiting official video hosts, as well as by integrating livestreams more deeply into the rest of the Amazon site.
Over the past few years, Google has been testing out a variety of ad formats designed with e-commerce companies in mind. Now, it's starting to slowly change some of those advertising formats. These moves are indicative of Google's current strategy: streamlining its shopping advertising formats in favor of making it easier for merchants to run campaigns, as well as to run ads across more Google properties.
Five months in, and strategic differences between TikTok and Reels are emerging for brands. In particular, Reels has become the platform of choice for big, established brand accounts. In contrast, challenger brands -- and their influencer partners -- are gravitating more toward TikTok. That is thanks to a mix of algorithmic differences between the two platforms and an existing comfort with Instagram from incumbent companies.
The number of monthly broadcasters on Twitch nearly doubled in 2020, from 3.6 million to 6.9 million. And last month alone, viewers consumed over 2 billion hours of content. As Twitch grows and its demographic diversifies, many brands -- including those that might not conventionally associate themselves with gaming -- are realizing that their potential customers are already on the platform.
Amazon is continuing its quest to offer social media-like features. For Amazon, the concern is that social-media-driven commerce -- long hyped to be the future of shopping -- now seems inevitable. The company’s rollout of Live and #FoundItOnAmazon is about capturing the value of social commerce before other social media companies can cut into its market share -- and its most recent feature, the little-noticed Amazon Posts, could go a long way toward achieving that goal.
In the aggregate, onlookers can draw out broad themes for how a company like Amazon sees itself, based on its investment history. And in Amazon’s case, though those signals are murky, they point to a few of the company’s areas of interest -- including an increased focus on fulfillment and delivery, plus growing fascinations with customer service, sleep and smart home devices. Here, we map out a few potential patterns in Amazon’s investments from the past five years.
TikTok is testing a new third-party selling product called TikTok Shop. Within the app, brands can upload their products and prices, receive and process orders and transactions, track deliveries, give refunds and interface with customers. And it suggests that TikTok is building out a third-party marketplace even more sophisticated than its closest rival, Instagram Shops.
Amazon's recent acquisition of e-commerce platform Selz has already sparked speculation about its larger meaning for Amazon’s ambitions. Depending on who is speaking, the acquisition is either the clearest signal yet that Amazon is going to compete directly with Shopify -- or it’s a small, local purchase aimed to expand Amazon’s reach in a new market, Australia, and nothing more. But it does show that seller services is the next e-commerce battleground.
Coupang is extremely young compared to Amazon, and it has not yet turned a profit. But in some ways, it has taken the Amazon model of efficiency-at-all-costs and heightened the stakes -- often offering shipping speeds to its Korean consumers that Amazon hasn’t yet managed.
This week, Mitsubishi is unveiling its newest car on Amazon Live. Live-stream shopping has long been hyped to become the future of e-commerce in the U.S., but this past year, tech giants finally invested in the new medium. Amazon’s event represents an escalation of those efforts -- and hints at a possible future where Amazon Live becomes a hub of all kinds of live events and product launches for brands.
Driven by the forthcoming direct listing of Roblox, plus the juggernaut success of Animal Crossing and Fortnite, agencies are springing up to help brands find their way in the gaming ecosystem -- a new and arguably belated recognition of the power that gaming communities can hold for brands of all stripes. Companies with direct ties to gaming, like headphone makers, are no strangers to the space, but most other brands have avoided marketing to gaming communities. Yet the rise of these agencies suggests that brands are finally eager to break into platforms like Twitch and into virtual, in-game universes in games like Fortnite.
Publisher recommendations are being prominently featured in Amazon searches. And sellers are trying to figure out how to capitalize. In recent months, some agencies have popped up with promises to facilitate connections between Amazon sellers and publishers enrolled in the Onsite Associates program -- creating what amounts to a behind-the-scenes industry of brokers that help sellers get their products listed on Amazon's first page. But the overall ecosystem remains murky.
TikTok has become known as a "food porn" destination, filled with trends like whipped coffee and mini pancake cereal bowls. Now that the platform has established itself among large retailers and emerging brands, food brands are seeking to capitalize on TikTok's engaged young audience. The latest of these manufacturers is hot chocolate bombs maker Modern Gourmet Foods.
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