The dream of being able to buy a product directly from a TV show dates back to the beginning of the new millennium. At industry conferences around the world, executives spoke longingly of a future in which viewers of the then-popular sitcom Friends could see star actress Jennifer Aniston wearing a fashionable sweater, and then, with the push of a button, purchase that very sweater for themselves.
But despite the many technological breakthroughs over the past 15 years, this holy grail of e-commerce is not yet a reality for the vast majority of consumers.
One of the main reasons shoppable video has yet to become a widespread phenomenon is user behaviour. While there are certainly instances where people are so excited by a new product that they are ready to buy it right away, most video viewers want to continue watching their content without interruption. If you’re about to see the resolution of an epic cliffhanger on Scandal or a laugh-out-loud funny video from your favourite YouTuber, purchasing a new pair of shoes may just have to wait a few minutes.
For shoppable video to reach its real potential, marketers and technologists must enable a slightly delayed purchase response.
Next-generation bookmarking is the missing piece
Even if someone isn’t in the shopping state of mind while they’re watching a particular piece of content, there’s great value in creating awareness, excitement, and the opportunity for them to make an informed purchase decision at some point down the road.
Crucial to this philosophy is the development of an idea I like to call “next-generation bookmarking,” or the capability for consumers to see a product in a video and revisit it after they’ve finished watching their content. Already, we’ve seen how platforms like Pinterest have helped consumers move from browsing to purchase consideration by giving them a place to store product pages and other content containing goods they might like to buy. The reason these platforms have caught on is that they allow people to bookmark their desired products seamlessly, and without interrupting their browsing and content consumption behaviours. They also provide a choice environment for people to compare the pros and cons of the various items they’ve earmarked.
Still, there’s a significant opportunity to take these bookmarking platforms to the next level by linking them directly to the point of purchase and making it easier to single out individual products from the video content people are consuming. While it’s nice that someone can save a video containing a pair of sunglasses to their Pinterest page, a truly next-generation bookmarking tool would allow the consumer to keep the product itself to a shopping cart where they could purchase it directly — all without leaving the video they were watching.
Many companies would love to be the preferred bookmarking tool for shopping. From aggregators like Pinterest and Lyst to browser extensions like Amazon Assistant and Wikibuy, and the retailers themselves, it’s clear there’s a true need for a seamless integration between the content viewing platform and the “keeper” of precious finds to help streamline the digital shopping experience.
Universal shopping carts, prepare video
Once these next-generation bookmarking tools are in place, the sky is the limit for shoppable video. Due to its unique combination of sight, sound and motion, video allows brands to connect with people on an emotional level that simply isn’t available with display ads and other mediums. And with global retail e-commerce sales set to top $2 trillion this year, web users have never been more comfortable making purchases online.
As you read this, companies like Shoppable and ShopStyle are hard at work building universal shopping carts capable of allowing users to store products from a variety of retailers in a single location one click away from checkout. In the not-too-distant future, consumers will be able to use a single shopping cart for all of their e-commerce activity. All that’s missing is the link between the video content people love and the shopping cart that holds the products they want to buy next.
Indeed, the future of shoppable video is well within our reach. With a slight reimagination of how we consider the format and a few pieces of instrumental technology, marketers will have an unprecedented opportunity to inspire demand, collapse the marketing funnel, and move buyers further along the path to purchase. One day soon, consumers will be able to identify and purchase their favourite actress’s sweater without hassle or delay — whenever they feel comfortable doing so.
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