It’s virtually impossible to talk about the state of retail in 2021 without discussing Amazon. The online giant has become a central component of daily commerce, setting record after record for growth in just about every aspect. Describing itself as the world’s most customer-centric company, Amazon continues to find new ways to provide value to not only individual shoppers, but also the many brands that utilize its platform to sell direct to consumers. These often come in the form of updates to its vast suite of marketing and advertising levers, such as the recent targeting enhancements to Sponsored Display ads. Other times, Amazon will introduce an entirely new service that benefits both sellers and shoppers – such as Amazon Explore.
What is Amazon Explore?
Amazon Explore is an interactive live-streaming service that allows customers to book virtual experiences with hosts located around the world in real-time. It is essentially a tour guide service that enables people to learn, shop, and discover new places from the comfort of their computer. Customers can ask questions, investigate new locales, and (in many cases) make purchases with Amazon’s secure checkout. Launched in September of 2020, Amazon Explore offers the following key benefits:
- Be in the moment, not on camera: Amazon’s one-way video, two-way audio stream lets you see and hear your host without having to be on camera.
- Shop for something special: In many experiences, you can purchase the items you find along the way.
- Get the local perspective: Each experience is a one-on-one conversation with a host live-streaming on location in real-time. Your host will give you an insider view of things.
How Does Amazon Explore Work?
Amazon Explore is designed to provide an easy, affordable alternative to the individual experiences that traditionally come with vacations. For example, a family might spend a day visiting wildlife during a trip to Costa Rica or browse local boutiques while on vacation in Quebec. Amazon Explore currently offers more than 250 unique experiences in more than 16 countries around the world. Most of these fall into three primary categories:
- Culture and Landmarks – Discover famous landmarks and not-yet-famous hideaways where only locals can go.
- Learning & Creativity – Learn new skills from tie-dying to pan-frying and more.
- Shopping – Browse local boutiques and markets to find one-of-a-kind items you can’t get anywhere else.
Amazon Explore sessions include English-speaking hosts, such as tour guides, professionals, personal shoppers, and other local specialists who have been vetted by Amazon. These hosts stream directly to customers, allowing them to see, hear, and talk about everything as it happens live. During the session, customers can ask questions, take pictures, make purchases, and experience the sights and sounds of the atmosphere just as they would if they were physically there. Some experiences – such as courses and tutorials – also include personal supply kits, which Amazon ships to the customers before the session.
Amazon Explore sessions cost anywhere from $10 to $99, and are currently available only to customers in the U.S. As with most customer-facing services on the platform, Amazon Explore is simple to use:
- Book your session
Most experiences are 30-60 minutes long. Customers choose the time and day (based on availability) and can cancel or reschedule up to 24 hours before the session begins.
- Show up at your computer
When it’s time for the session, customers sign into their Amazon account and click the Your Session page from Your Orders. The host will connect with the customer from there.
The host interacts with the customer to customize the experience to their interests.
- A laptop or desktop computer (Amazon Explore doesn’t work on phones or tablets)
- An up-to-date Chrome, Safari, Edge, or Firefox browser
- A microphone (the one on your computer will work fine)
- Headphones or speakers
- High-speed internet of 5 Mbps or better (Search “test my speed” online to find your speed)
Amazon Explore: Benefits for Sellers
In most cases, Amazon Explore allows shoppers to make purchases during their session. This provides an opportunity for sellers to reach new customers, although some caveats apply. Amazon Explore is built around the idea of providing a virtual “experience” to customers. The items available for purchase during an Amazon Explore session need to be connected to the overall experience. This provides a challenge for many brands. A tour of a warehouse isn’t going to suffice. That said, local boutiques are one of the primary categories of Amazon Explore. If a brand happens to have a brick-and-mortar location in a town or city that is regarded as a popular tourist attraction, Amazon might consider this a viable experience opportunity for Amazon Explore customers.
All sellers need to go through an application process to become an approved Amazon Explore host. To apply, be ready to provide basic details about your business, including contact information and number of employees. You also need to provide a title for the experience you want to offer along with a description and a price. This is what Amazon will use to determine your eligibility. Since Amazon values customers above all else, you will need to offer an interesting experience and, if you want to sell products, find a way to fit your products into the experience.
One of the greatest challenges to selling on Amazon is distinguishing your brand from the 2.5 million other active sellers on the marketplace. Fortunately, Amazon continues to expand its vast suite of marketing and advertising levers designed to help brands target customers. Still, as competition on the marketplace continues to grow, it’s helpful for brands to find additional ways to reach customers on the platform. While not a good fit for every seller, Amazon Explore is an interesting new service that is gaining popularity among Amazon’s vast customer base, which makes it worthy of consideration as a tool for sellers to reach shoppers.