Amazon pilots paid virtual shopping service as part of Black Friday promo

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
Dan Berthiaume profile picture

Amazon is including a discount on a paid interactive experience called “Amazon Explore” as part of its Black Friday promotion, which starts Friday, Nov. 20.

The online retail giant is kicking off Black Friday as it introduces the beta version of Amazon Explore, a new service that provides customers live, customized virtual shopping experiences at boutiques and markets all around the world. A one-way video, two-way audio stream lets customers see and hear their virtual host without being on camera. The host, who livestreams on location in real time, can provide tours of culture and landmarks, teach skills such as cooking local cuisine, and lead virtual shopping trips.

Customers can choose what activities they want their Explore experience to include. Many experiences allow customers to directly purchase products from local vendors, which the host then ships (certain items, such as food, are excluded from purchase). A camera icon at the bottom of the screen allows customers to take and download photos of their experience.

Prices range from under $50 to over $150 per experience, which can last under 30 minutes to 60 minutes and over. Amazon says its Black Friday promotion will include discounted Explore experiences, although the retailer has not specified exact deals.

Amazon, which launched an early holiday campaign with “Black Friday-worthy” deals called Holiday Dash on Oct. 16, is now rolling out an official Black Friday sales event. Amazon will run “Black Friday Deals Week” from Friday, Nov. 20 through Friday, Nov. 27 (the traditional Friday-after-Thanksgiving date for Black Friday).

The company is promising to offer tens of thousands of deals and low prices at its dedicated Black Friday page or on the Amazon app. New Black Friday deals will be offered daily all week, many for only 24 hours.

Other features of Amazon’s weeklong Black Friday promotion include dedicated Black Friday pages for its Smile program, which donates a portion of the purchase price to charity, as well as for dedicated assortments from small businesses.

In addition, for the sixth year in a row, Amazon will feature the Oprah’s Favorite Things list from media mogul Oprah Winfrey. Amazon initiated its holiday sales season on Oct. 5 by launching its biggest-ever selection of holiday gift guides Amazon initiated its holiday sales season on Oct. 5 by launching its biggest-ever selection of holiday gift guides and exclusive online storefronts. 

An extended returns window will allow customers to return most items shipped through Dec. 31, 2020 for free until Jan. 31, 2021 at over 18,000 convenient locations across the U.S. Starting Nov. 20, customers can find Alexa-exclusive deals and more by asking their Amazon Alexa voice-enabled device “Alexa, what are my deals?”

Amazon’s brick-and-mortar retail locations, including Amazon Books, Amazon 4-star, Amazon Pop Up, Amazon Fresh, and Whole Foods Market, will also offer weeklong Black Friday discounts.