The retail landscape is more complex and more online than ever. In this increasingly attuned space, categories are converging like never before as companies battle for users’ free time. Media, gaming, retail, exercise, cooking, and education all sit side-by-side, competing for a small slice of consumer bandwidth in the attention economy. Jason Simon, an eCommerce and FinTech expert, explains how streaming has arrived to change the game.

When it comes to thriving in the digital space and beyond, the streaming giants do a lot of things right. Simon says that based on his own experience working with these types of companies, there is one thing he now knows to be true and that is that there are many things retailers could take away from companies like HBO and Netflix.

Streaming giants know that their success depends on how much of their users’ time they can divert, especially when tempting new distractions are popping up all over the place. In 2013, Netflix was still focused on beating HBO: the company said its goal was to “become HBO faster than HBO can become us.” By 2019, however, video games had become a much bigger threat. 15- to 29-year-olds averaged 39 minutes a day playing games. “We compete with (and lose) to Fortnite more than we compete with HBO,” Netflix said.

By 2020, the signs had moved once again: Netflix congratulated TikTok on its staggering growth, showing the fluidity of Internet entertainment. TikTok has surpassed YouTube in playtime in the US, getting more than 45 minutes per day from its audience. The prevalent string in the evolving panorama was awareness. Netflix needed to beat its established rivals, but it also needed to take on others competing for its users’ time.

While many retailers have yet to realize it, they too are engaged in this same battle for users’ attention. eCommerce success has evolved from the traditional focus on increasing conversion and reducing returns to also include metrics that represent trust, dialogue, and discovery with the customer. Metrics such as account creation and post-purchase engagement are now critical to sustained success.

“Where the streaming giants shine is great content or, in other words, entertainment. Viewers are absorbed in streaming platforms because they feel completely satisfied. However, streamers have also learned the hard way that it’s not enough to have great content; they must get users to discover it and watch it too,” Simons states. “That’s why streaming services make a discovery so much fun for users, while aggressively pushing them to commit to watching a program as quickly as possible.” Movies and shows play automatically as soon as the cursor hovers over the preview image. Opening titles are discarded in favor of instant starts, and end credits are replaced by autoplay of the next great content.

Most streaming giants operate a live streaming arm along with their ready-to-stream content: Amazon Prime Video has a growing selection of live sports, and Amazon-owned Twitch dominates live gaming streams. Netflix began testing Direct, a linear TV channel, in France last year. And both Disney and HBO have embraced the hybrid movie release model, where fans watch the latest blockbuster in theaters or directly at home. Retailers are now realizing the power of bringing live content to their audiences as well.

Live shopping is not new, but this is the first time all the pieces are falling into place to make it popular in the US. Technology, culture, and consumer behavior are converging in this space to finally make it premium, fun, and intimate. All eCommerce companies are now entertainment companies. The best way for retailers to thrive is to engage customers and keep them coming back with exceptional content. Live streaming is the next natural evolution from that.