As the popularity of streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime continues to rise, T-Commerce – the use of television as a platform for (e-)commerce – could make a comeback. T-Commerce encompasses a range of activities, including traditional televised shopping programs, interactive TV shopping experiences, and the advertisement and online purchase of products on TV. The integration of T-Commerce into streaming platforms offers the possibility of new interactive shopping experiences for viewers, revolutionising the way we shop. In this article, we will explore the potential future of the shopping journey with T-Commerce on streaming platforms.
T-Commerce, also known as television commerce or TV commerce, refers to goods sold directly through TV screens. Historically, T-Commerce has been utilised through infomercials, home shopping channels, and other television programs that offer products for sale. These programs provided viewers with the ability to make purchases directly through their TVs by calling a phone number or using a remote control. In addition, T-Commerce was also implemented in traditional TV programs such as cooking or home improvement shows to enhance the viewing experience by enabling viewers to easily purchase featured products.
The two most famous examples from the past that still exist today are probably QVC (Quality, Value, Convenience) and HSN (Home Shopping Network). Both were launched in the 1980s and became well-known for their quirky, 24/7 cable channels that sell products on TV and interact with select shoppers in real-time on-air. These channels often have time-limited pitches for products that include a countdown clock to drive sales, using techniques such as the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO) to encourage purchases. The concept of FOMO was popularized by HSN and QVC long before it became a widely used term in social media.
In 2019, Amazon entered the world of home shopping channels with the introduction of Amazon Live and the Amazon Live Creator app. The app allows smaller brands to produce live programming from a mobile device to showcase their products and answer viewer questions. Unlike its cable channel competitors, Amazon Live is only accessible on the Amazon website and does not have time limits or countdown timers to pressure sales. The live-streaming service offers a mix of professionally produced live shows, DIY programming, and on-demand viewing of previously aired shows.
Streaming platforms like Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Disney+ have the potential to reinvent the concept of T-Commerce. Netflix partnered with Walmart, the largest retailer in the US, to exclusively sell merchandise for popular Netflix series like Squid Game, Stranger Things, and The Witcher. Together they set up a digital sales portal called Netflix Hub, where fans can vote on merchandise items for future inclusion. While this partnership is a small step towards T-Commerce, Amazon may have the best technical capabilities to make significant sales in this area in the future. One of the major advantages Amazon has over its competitors is that it has always offered both Netflix and Walmart services, whereas its competitors only offer one or the other.
For example, Amazon Prime’s streaming service already has the X-Ray function that allows viewers to get additional information about films, including actor and music information. In the future, Amazon could incorporate direct links to its marketplace in the broadcast through the use of image recognition technology, even if it does not offer the same exact leather jacket as worn by Tom Cruise in a Mission Impossible film, it could find one that looks very similar.
Amazon has already demonstrated success with T-Commerce through its reality fashion competition program, Making the Cut (2020), hosted by Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn, which streamed on Amazon Prime. This program allowed viewers to purchase items designed by the winning contestants directly through Prime, showing Amazon’s ability to effectively handle fulfillment, a challenge that has hindered other companies who have tried T-Commerce.
The promise of T-commerce is to enhance shopping channels as well as regular TV ads by offering consumers a “One-Click, Buy It” possibility. And Amazon seems to be able to do just that.
While Netflix does not currently offer a traditional T-Commerce experience, it has experimented with integrating e-commerce into its content. For example, in 2020, Netflix released a limited series called Unsolved Mysteries that featured real-life mysteries that were still being investigated. Some of the episodes included links to websites where viewers could purchase items related to the cases being featured, such as t-shirts or books.
In the future, T-Commerce could take the following form:
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