How Shoppable Video Will Add the Next Layer of Interaction to Video Engagement
Show me a man who can watch a James Bond movie and not want to purchase a new suit and Aston Martin, and I will show you a liar. For consumers who are brand loyal, new product trailers generally trigger the thought process of “Shut Up and Take My Money!”
Don’t believe me on anecdote alone? Take a gander of these statistics from Google: “4 in 10 shoppers visited a store in person or online as a direct result of watching a video,” and “34 percent of apparel shoppers said they were more likely to make a purchase after viewing an online video ad.” Eliminating the barrier between viewing and purchase is the only way to improve those already impressive statistics.
A few distinct paths exist for marketers in their search for a video that does more than just look good. Some of these roads are paved, well lit and maintained, while others still don’t show up on the GPS. The choice of which platform is a question of a) most importantly: marketing goals and b) most unfortunately: budget. Blazing a new trail doesn’t come cheap. The current shoppable video landscape leaves much to be desired, but it is that desire that will be the driving force in the coming years.
What’s Available for Your Brand Today? A Look into Platforms and Tools for Making Your Videos Shoppable.
1. External Annotations: YouTube announced in October the beta launch of its “External Annotations” platform. Links can now be easily placed on videos, driving the purchase of products displayed in the video. Sounds awesome right? So did cell phones in 1995.
YouTube’s current external annotation platform is as sleek and appealing as a 10-pound cell phone. It disrupts the viewing experience by popping up on the video (who doesn’t love pop-up ads?) and linking away from the video (“I wasn’t done watching…oh wait, I guess you decided that I am”).
A recent Juicy Couture campaign using the external annotation format exposed both the benefits and flaws of the platform. The first product displayed in the video sold out, while the other products featured in the video actually had to be reduced in price due to poor sales. The consumer disengagement from the video caused by navigating away from the video at the first product could be to blame for the poor performance of the other products.
4. WireWAX: While YouTube might be the leader in online video networks, it certainly isn’t the only name in the game when it comes to shoppable videos. Another popular platform is WireWAX, which has helped to power shoppable videos from Nike, Rip Curl and Neiman Marcus to name a few. It allows for more functionality than External Annotations (in-video interactions versus completely external links) but presents information in a similarly intrusive pop-up fashion (“HEY LOOK, IT’S A PRODUCT! DO YOU WANT TO BUY THIS!?”).
5. Pokeware: Pokeware is a platform that allows video tagging that is unobtrusive to the viewing experience while also offering an advertising exchange platform where both content creators and third-party advertisers may benefit. With Pokeware, a video will play completely uninterrupted with screenshots displayed below that include product tags.
While the initial viewing may be unobtrusive, the interactions are anything but. Clicking on the tags in the video opens a new browser window to a completely unrelated third party attempting to sell a product. It removes a lot of the control from the content creator in exchange for advertising profits. For brands not looking to create their own content but rather drive sales through others’ content, Pokeware is a viable platform in both theory and execution.
6. Fluid Retail: Fluid Retail is doing some interesting things with its video merchandising solution in terms of being able to juxtapose products in a carousel at various cue points in the video.
7. Brightcove: Brightcove’s video suite allows you to add shoppable elements into its custom player for embedding in your site. Some of its features date back to 2010 when the company rolled out shoppable video demos with big box stores like Kmart, but again, this option includes more of the same tagging at cue points.
8. Liveclicker: Liveclicker’s Barneys video is a great example of how to incorporate an interesting video spot that pairs products that are shoppable in an unobtrusive way.
Future Forms of Commerce
All of these platforms have their positives and negatives, but what is a marketer to do when a solution doesn’t currently exist? If the resources and budget are plentiful, marketers should strongly consider creating their own experiences from scratch. Shoppable video is admittedly in its infancy, and the industry is ripe for disturbances and innovations. The problem is framed, “How can we increase sales and engagement through traditional video mediums?”
Let the positives and negatives of all of the above platforms serve as a roadmap for this new video product. I believe the future holds a new form of commerce, which will live inside the video regardless of the device or the screen size it’s viewed from.
As HTML5 continues to push what can be accomplished without a plugin (Flash), we will see more than just “add to cart” from within a video by being able to completely check out from the experience. By check out, I mean that the shopping experience will be unobtrusive and will have your product into the shipping process as quickly as possible without ruining the video experience.
The most successful video campaigns that I’ve seen or been a part of have been based around compelling content that gave users the ability to choose their own path. Short, entertaining and emotion-evoking content is — and always will be — what gets users to share. People will figure out how to share great content or find the product or item they want no matter where you put the “Like” button or what overlay or contextual “buy it now” button appears in videos of the future.
Invest in Data and Custom Solutions
As usual, the brands that will win will be the ones who bet big. They will invest in new technologies and experiences not yet offered by the likes of Google. Thankfully, they can rest assured that not only are the Googles of the world watching but, most importantly, so are their customers. Continuing to use pre-built platforms and paint-by-numbers solutions regarding shoppable video will only serve to get a brand’s message lost in the noise.
I believe advertisers will start focusing more on dynamic content, allowing highly personalized content to be served based on a collective profile built up on each individual. This means going beyond remarketing/retargeting and down to the behavioral level. Instead of watching a video that includes a pop-up for every single product possible, only products that your behavioral data suggests might be of interest will be highlighted for purchase.
Facebook just announced their Graph Search, which is a big step in the big data/search game and certainly has marketers (myself included) all over the signup to be the first to explore this beta product. Graph Search will allow a deeper insight into consumer’s behaviors, fusing the needs of the brand to the desires of the consumer. The next few iterations of shoppable video should — and hopefully will — have a deeper integration with the consumer data made available by Graph Search. This technology will bring the most relevant products to the most interested consumers and their like-minded social tribes in video form.
Innovation in the shoppable video field will eventually push the experience toward its inevitable intersection with the elusive “second screen” experience. The future isn’t how to best serve advertisements in online videos; rather, it is the ability to provide the best possible user experience regardless of the media. Pointing at a movie on the screen and saying, “I will have that shirt in three to four business days,” is the ultimate goal, but who will be the one to take the next step in that direction?
While I wouldn’t say 2013 will be the tipping point for shoppable video, we will surely see the rise of more experimental “second- and multi-screen experiences” and interesting mashups that provide new ways for users to engage with content beyond the view.
Pete Sena is the founder of Digital Surgeons, a digital marketing agency that specializes in igniting art and science to create better brand experiences. Equally adept at creative strategy, design, and technology, he had no other choice but to open his own agency so that great ideas would be matched with great execution. If all that wasn’t fun enough, Pete spends his out of office time reading voraciously, attacking Crossfit, finding great snow, and hacking and making stuff. Follow him on twitter @petesena or LinkedIn.