Shoppable content was meant to take off in 2017, with tech-enabled online content allowing consumers to buy featured products without being redirected to another site. However, its adoption by brands has been slow, as publishers still think of content first, with shopping as an afterthought.
This highlighted the fact that the back-end processes and technological expertise needed to integrate content with commerce shouldn’t be underestimated.
If publishers can form the right partnerships to fulfil all parts of the retail process then a whole host of new opportunities will arise, including live-stream retail, which allows consumers to shop in real-time directly from live content – shopping-as-entertainment reborn for the smartphone generation.
Shoppable content is one of those areas of commerce that has been tipped as the next big thing for the past couple of years. Previously restricted to static formats, shoppable content is now moving from visual images into online video. We are also seeing the growth of live stream retail, enabling consumers to shop in real-time directly from live content. These developments could give brands the greater level of engagement they need to start driving sales via this growing retail platform.
Put simply, shoppable content is tech-enabled and online, allowing consumers to buy featured products without being redirected to another site. Consumers can click on the featured brand on the content and be directed to a shopping site. This opportunity has brands and publishers working closely to produce content that can be monetised. The development of shoppable content is very much a natural progression for brands, as they have been harnessing new technologies and platforms to drive product discovery and personalise the shopping experience.
Consumers can now easily take pictures of items they like, search visually online and get personal recommendations based on an AI generated model. Machine learning can analyse every click through an online inventory in real time to understand customer preferences and create personalised shopping experiences. Brands and publishers can optimise content in line with consumer’s navigation, for example, marketers can aggregate their stylish Instagram feeds, YouTube videos, and fashion blogs into a mobile content marketing experience with clickable content based on the consumer’s interests.
Now that advertisers have made their images shoppable, video should be the next logical next step. The power of video for shopping is undeniable: 87% of fashion brands are creating video content and generating transaction rates that are at least 1.6 times higher than for static images (according to McKinsey’s research in 2015). However, we still see most advertisers using video as a traffic tool, rather than a way to drive conversions with shoppable video or content related to this.
It is becoming easier to shop via video because of the platforms that are available, whether its YouTube’s shoppable ads, Instagram Stories’ shoppable video layer or Snapchat’s “swipe-up” as an e-commerce call to action. Start-ups are developing new functions that make video shopping more seamless and immersive, such as Cinematique’s touchable videos. Marketers need to test different formats and platforms and think carefully about how to integrate e-commerce call to actions into the video content they create.
There is also a new twist on shoppable content that will grow in importance in 2018: ‘live stream retail’ enables consumers to interact with brands and shop via live-streaming. This new method is gaining popularity in China, with its market value estimated to be worth US$4.4bn and the numbers of viewers reaching 456 million (source: Deloitte). Live-streaming and commerce go hand in hand in China compared with other Western countries where streaming and commerce are separate entities. Global businesses are taking the opportunity to sell to Chinese consumers via live streaming. Macy’s, which sells officially through Tmall Global in China, has used live-streaming to give about 100,000 Chinese consumers a look at its flagship store in Manhattan. In another layer of engagement, Macy’s offered viewers coupons of the items showcased in the livestream, which they could then use when purchasing them on Tmall. Retailers and brands in China are taking advantage of customer data and trending topics to develop content that attract consumers to participate in shop streaming.
Live stream can be a game changer. Businesses in China use shop streaming to sell their products on the spot. The conversion rate on live streaming in China is high: 32% (source: Taobao live). A proven successful strategy is hiring Chinese internet influencers known as ‘Wang Hong’ to promote and sell their products. Offering discounts also helps drive sales on the spot. Whilst China uses show streaming on a big scale, other markets are starting to experiment shop streaming to elevate their online customer service. Shop streaming works best for specialty shops where shoppers can receive individual attention and answers they will not receive from any product page. A growing number of small businesses are using Facebook Live to show off and sell their wares, taking bids from punters in the comments. Gadgets, which often need quite a bit of explaining, are particularly in evidence.
Shoppable content and live streaming are exciting new forms of content built for commerce, which are set to radically change how consumers shop in coming years. Publishers will need to have the back-end process in place to ensure easy and effortless shopping and to meet growing demand. As full commerce functionality is built into content, brands will be able to leverage customer data to develop content that will drive consumers to discover and shop.