AWS for Industries

Building and Scaling Commerce Live Streams

Retail has greatly transformed over the last few years, as more commerce happens online and influencers play a growing role in driving product affinity. In Asia, live stream commerce is revealing massive revenue opportunities, with retailers generating billions of dollars in minutes. Accordingly, McKinsey estimates that live stream commerce sales could account for as much as 20 percent of all ecommerce by 2026.

Why live stream commerce?

As the founding director of the shoppable live stream program Amazon Live, Munira Rahemtulla understands the key components for live stream commerce success and how its popularity in Asia can be replicated in other regions. For example, she has seen how leaning into the concept of exclusivity through time-bound offers or VIP product launches generates excitement and adds a sense of urgency to purchasing decisions. “As humans,” notes Rahemtulla, “we can’t resist the limited-time offer, and that will start to make its way into the live streaming ethos.”

The power of highly engaged communities

Prioritizing relationships with influencers is one key to building a live stream commerce experience. “You need an audience with a strong reason to be interested,” says Rahemtulla. “Partnering with influencers can help build credibility and traction, and for larger retailers, it’s a way to make their brand feel relevant, modern, and inspirational.”

Rahemtulla’s team experienced the power of these relationships firsthand when it set out to modernize the shopping experience with a show called Style Code Live. It streamed for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. While the endeavor seemed well positioned for success, it never quite found its footing and the team shut it down 1 year later. After reevaluating its endeavor, Rahemtulla’s team channeled its efforts into democratizing the live stream creation process. By exposing Amazon Live to creators, the team could experiment more quickly, appeal to broader audiences, and show more content. As it got to know more and more creators, it discovered that more viewing opportunities led to higher engagement, increased repeat visitors, and much more momentum.

One of the first creators to stream on Amazon Live, beauty influencer BEAUTYBYCARLA, has a devoted follower base that is primed to make purchases. After monitoring the live chat activity during one of her initial streams, Rahemtulla experienced an “Aha!” moment. “To get started, you really want a warm audience,” she says. “You need influencers to bring their own audience.”

Building for scale

Along with attracting an audience, retailers who are building a live stream commerce experience must consider how to support audience expansion and moderation, not to mention the scalability of their tech stack.

An influencer brings a cultivated audience, and retailers can expand it by using marketing channels to promote their live stream. Moreover, email marketing to an existing customer base and social media promotion can drive live stream traffic because the audience already has an interest in the content.

While audience growth creates more revenue opportunities, it’s important that the live stream tech stack facilitates low-latency interactions for viewers. Lags and long buffer times cause frustration and a poor customer experience, reducing the likelihood of a purchase. Conversely, near-real-time stream delivery creates more opportunities to build positive interactions, especially when creators can respond almost instantly to customer chat questions.

Digging deeper into the best methods of boosting live streaming capabilities for Amazon Live, Rahemtulla initially attempted to use an open-source framework. She soon discovered that an open-source approach didn’t provide the scale to support high-quality live streams outside of major cities. The team instead built Amazon Live using Amazon Interactive Video Service (Amazon IVS), a managed live streaming solution, the technology that has powered Twitch over the last 10 years. Twitch reported over a trillion minutes watched in 2020 alone and low-latency streaming for viewers all over the world. Access to these managed services facilitates the Amazon Live team to focus its energy on innovating and developing value-add features rather than diverting resources to global video infrastructure management.

Next generation brand partnerships

The first steps for any business using live streaming to drive sales are to build a scalable platform and to acquire an audience. Once those elements are dialed in, optimization fuels continued growth. Building and retaining an engaged audience requires a combination of exciting content coupled with new methods of interacting with the creator. Furthermore, enhanced interactivity boosts affinity for the creator and a greater propensity to watch, engage, and buy.

Taking lessons from what worked for early influencers was enlightening for the Amazon Live team and helped inform its own streams. Brands saw meaningful revenue growth from partnering with Amazon Live, which propelled the service forward. To date, top Amazon Live streams have included launches of products (Katy Perry shoes, J.Lo Beauty, Lady Gaga beauty, Mitsubishi auto), albums (Imagine Dragons, Dua Lipa, Norah Jones), books (Dean Koontz, Neil Gaiman, David Baldacci, Michael Connelly), cooking shows (Carla Hall, Emeril Lagasse), fitness workouts (Melissa Wood health, Katie Austin), and more.

Rahemtulla continues to theorize that optimization is a never-ending journey. Still, her number one takeaway from building Amazon Live is that content comes first. “Content matters,” she says. “If you don’t have the right host and the right content, nothing else matters. You have to get the content right.”

To learn more about building with live video for retail, check out

Lara Stiris

Lara Stiris

Lara Stiris leads growth for Amazon Interactive Video Service, focusing on building and nurturing a community of developers creating interactive live streaming experiences.