Amazon announced multi-award-winning and groundbreaking artists Billie Eilish, H.E.R., and Kid Cudi will star in the Prime Day Show. Amazon says this pre-recorded show is a “three-part immersive musical event presented by Amazon Music that features some of the best in music and entertainment in celebration of Prime Day.”
The shows will air on Prime Video starting on June 17 and be available for all customers for 30 days, even if they do not have a Prime membership.
Amazon Copying Alibaba?
This is the first time Amazon is using a major entertainment element to promote and create excitement for the company’s Prime Day sales event on June 21 and 22, 2021. But it sounds awfully familiar!
For several years now, the Alibaba Group has used live high-energy performances and celebrity appearances to promote before and during its annual 11.11 Singles Day shopping festival in China.
Even, Western artists and celebrities have been part of the 11.11 Singles Day entertainment portion, including in 2019, multiple Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Taylor Swift kicked off the shopping festival with a live performance.
Shopping in China has become a more social experience, termed ‘Social Commerce,’ especially among a younger generation. Social Commerce is a mix of social media engagement and shopping that started in Asia and is slowly gaining ground in the Western world.
Consumers are not just searching for a product and hit the buy button, but they are actively engaging with sellers or other shoppers on their mobile devices. The idea is to make shopping more fun, exciting, and engaging.
Alibaba’s Group 11.11 Single’s Day shopping festival leverages this social interaction with live-streaming sales presentations along with musical and other entertainment segments. It could be argued the live show is a bit like a Telethon, except the goal is to drum up sales, not collect money for charity.
On the surface, it looks like Amazon is trying to serve up a cheap copy of Alibaba’s 11.11 Single’s Day shopping extravaganza entertainment portion to lure more younger shoppers to its platform during the sale. But for that to truly work, the Amazon app and shopping platform are not very social commerce friendly.
Fundamentally, Amazon is old-school online commerce; image, description, reviews, buy button. Several studies (such as this one) indicate the average Amazon buyer is in their mid-40s or older, which has not changed much through the years (2015 Amazon Demographics study).
That’s not to say the company didn’t try to add social commerce before to attract younger shoppers, specifically the Gen-Z generation. In 2017, it launched an Instagram-like social commerce section in its app called Spark. The company shut down the service in 2019, likely because it gained very little traction. Maybe it was too early for Western Gen-Z shoppers, but some remnants of Spark remain in Amazon’s Influencer program.
Since the company’s average shopper demographics appear to trend older and more affluent than its rivals, its primary mission has been to keep ahead of its competition by offering more products delivered faster through its ever-growing logistics operation.
Social Commerce took a backseat at Amazon, but that may need to change if it wants to engage with younger shoppers to turn them into long-time customers.
With the company’s shopping platform falling short of being a social commerce platform such as is commonplace in China, the most likely reason for the Prime Day Show is to keep a broader (younger) consumer engaged with Amazon products and services. Video and music streaming are crucial pieces to keep this engagement.
Over the last few months, the company heavily invested in its Prime Video service, including:
- Exclusive rights to NFL Thursday Night Football
- Launching major movies originally to be shown in theatres such as Coming to America 2
- Agreed to acquire MGM Studios
These investments may not scream Gen-Z but could be the tip of the iceberg as the company is solidifying its streaming market share globally, competing against Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, Apple TV+ and others.
Especially Apple TV+ and Disney Plus are emerging streaming competitors with deep pockets. Disney already said it has over 100 million subscribers on its streaming service, exceeding many predictions. Certainly, the extensive content library, along with the Covid-19 pandemic, helped the service grow much quicker than many predicted.
By comparison, Apple TV+ is still very small as it builds its original content library. But Apple has been marketing extensively to build up subscriber numbers, offering free one-year subscriptions to Apple device owners and bundling the streaming service with its music and news services.
The company has deep pockets and a captive audience with its ecosystem and is beloved among Gen-Z and Millenials. Apple just needs to build the content to make a good value proposition for its fledgling streaming service.
When it comes to music streaming, this seems to be Amazon’s weakest area, especially among the Gen-Z generation.
Simple question: Do you know anyone who subscribes to the premium Amazon Music Unlimited tier? It’s doubtful there will be many positive responses, and some will ask, what is that?
Last year, Amazon claimed it had over 55 million paying subscribers to its music service. But that is over multiple tiers of the service, including the “free” tier available as part of the Amazon Prime membership, which offers a limited music catalog of 2 million songs.
Amazon Music Unlimited is the subscription tier that most resembles the standard Spotify and Apple paid subscription tier with 60+ million songs. When making an apples-to-apples comparison (no pun intended here), that’s the one that really counts, and the company has been mum on that number. Globally, Apple and Shopify have over three times more paying subscribers than Amazon, counting all Amazon tiers.
For Prime members, Amazon even discounts the service by a few Dollars over its rivals. But despite the monetary advantage, it seems it is still lagging way behind market leaders Spotify and Apple. Both just offer a more engaging music experience with a loyal following.
Amazon and Gen-Z
For Amazon, there is a real need to defend its market-leading ecommerce position with younger shoppers. Still, many Gen-Zers still start their shopping journey on Amazon, probably because that’s what they know from their parents. But for how much longer?
If Social Commerce starts taking a bigger foothold in the U.S., or much of the Western world, this could be a threat to Amazon.
That is not to say they have done nothing to keep Gen-Zers on the Amazon platform. Amazon has a discounted student Prime membership program with an additionally discounted music subscription tier, and there is the popular school textbook service. But without a makeover of the Amazon app to be more social commerce friendly, is that enough?
Trying to balance the current commerce platform that works well for its older and more affluent consumers while adding elements that keep Gen-Z engaged will be a challenge for the company.
Recently, Poshmark launched a partnership with Snapchat, and social media powerhouses such as Instagram (Integrated Payments) and Tik-Tok (expanding ecommerce tools) continue to invest in their online commerce integrations. The threat to its younger consumer shopper is not just one collaboration or one social media company, but it appears to be coming from several entities, all at once.
It may seem strange to suggest that Amazon has a Gen-Z problem. But if social commerce expands in the West, as many predict, Amazon could have a customer retention problem with that demographic.
The addition of the Prime Day Show to the Prime Day sales event may seem like they are copying Alibaba’s 11.11 shopping extravaganza entertainment tie-in to target a younger audience. It is a clever move though.
For now, Amazon has to keep the traditionally high-value older customer base happy on a familiar “old-school” commerce platform while it launches and produces more content and services to appeal to young shoppers.
Amazon knows how to play the long game, and the Prime Day Show may just be the beginning of a marketing strategy to keep Gen-Z shoppers on its commerce platform.
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