The future of commerce is shoppable video

If there’s one thing that’s bountiful in 2020, it’s video content. The streaming wars are raging, with services  churning out enough programming for a lifetime. Meanwhile, social media platforms keep expanding and grabbing more of people’s finite attention. But while consumers have no shortage of content, what’s lacking is an experience that grabs their attention by offering more than just viewing.

The future of commerce belongs to brands and creators who bring commerce and content closer together in a seamless, engaging, and interactive viewing environment. These shoppable video experiences meet the viewers where they are, have the potential to unlock valuable user data, and empower brands to connect with consumers through more meaningful interactions.

Bring ‘shoppertainment’ online

The rise of online shopping has forced brick and mortar retailers to develop ways to draw consumers in. From the Dubai Mall’s immersive Candylicious dreamland, to Chicago’s brand new Reserve Roastery experience, retailers worldwide are combining shopping and entertainment to attract younger generations who are expecting more engaging experiences. While this “shoppertainment” trend initially rose as a response to online shopping, the ecommerce world can also take note and apply some of these strategies to the digital landscape.

Major media companies are already leading the charge by leveraging interactive video, particularly within the ad space. For example, Walmart’s streaming service Vudu has been investing in shoppable ads to uplevel their platform’s ecommerce capabilities. This kind of interactive content allows viewers to purchase an ad’s featured products instantly through a pop-up window rather than leaving the video to go through the transaction.

The rise of mobile also plays a role in this new wave of retail-entertainment. Shopping was the fastest-growing mobile segment in 2017 (up 54% year-over-year), followed by entertainment (43%), making smartphones an ideal tool for keeping consumers engaged and putting the power of interactive ecommerce in their hands. Many brands are recognizing this potential and putting a specific focus on mobile. NBCUniversal, for example, is bringing “shoppertainment” to smartphones through shoppable ads powered by mobile-friendly QR codes that allow customers to make purchases with ease.

These new capabilities are more than just shiny bells and whistles. They embody “shoppertainment” at its core, providing engaging experiences that are built into entertainment, but modernized and primed for the online shopper.

What happens in the video stays in the video

People flock to video on social media because platforms like Facebook and Instagram create a native environment where content is continuously served. These outlets give brands an opportunity to market to a captive audience, while video allows marketers to embrace deeper engagement and creativity. However, keeping consumers interested in videos while encouraging transactions can be a difficult balancing act. The most successful content providers are able to seamlessly mesh both elements together into one, unified experience.

ShopStyle, for example, launched YouTube Looks, allowing viewers to click product links directly within a video, rather than in the description box or a separate page that might distract from the content. We’re also seeing this integrated shopping trend on Instagram. Last year, Allbirds released a limited edition collection that was only available for purchase on the app. Meanwhile, commerce platform MikMak launched its Attach functionality, which allows retailers to integrate checkout or shopping cart features directly into in-app product videos.

These native shopping capabilities appeal to consumers who prioritize seamlessness. At the same time, they help brands and influencers retain viewer engagement by keeping the whole experience in one place.

Above: A shoppable video example from Maybelline.

Put your money where your consumer is

To compete with established OTT giants, brands must amplify their content creation game. As streaming services remain the gold standard for video, industry-adjacent players can gain traction by placing greater investment in original content.

A handful of companies have taken the first step. Foot Locker is investing in video-based ecommerce and content platform NTWRK to create original, episodic content that features exclusive product launches and celebrity appearances. Meanwhile, Alibaba has tapped into streaming platform Bilibili to leverage anime video content and get in front of new audience segments.

And look at WeChat. The app is turning into an ecommerce juggernaut, largely because its “mini-programs” give brands more control over their user interface designs and full access to consumer data analytics. Lifting the veil of viewer habits and insights gives content providers an edge in determining what exactly they put out.

Above: GoPro’s shoppable video.

Original, proprietary video creates an opportunity to skip the middleman and reach consumers directly with fresh, data-informed content. Once they’re tuned in, consumers are in a prime position to further engage with a company and make a purchase. Tinder is a great example of a brand that’s adopted this approach to original programming. Its weekly series Swipe Night gives fans a recurring batch of interactive content to keep them entertained on their mobile device and engaged with the brand while remaining in-app.

That is exactly the kind of frictionless interface viewers have come to expect. As brands and creators continue to blur the line between shopping and entertainment — and, in turn, commerce and content — those who create the most seamless experiences will be able to stay ahead of the competition and drive real impact.

Rose Tsou is Head of eCommerce and International at Verizon Media.

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