Shoppable moving pictures: From e-commerce to video commerce

As the age-old adage goes, sex sells. This was proven again by French fashion brand Shai’s 2006 summer campaign: In the brand’s online videos, French pornography actors wore the current Shai collection before disrobing and getting on with it. The explicit videos could be paused, the discarded garments on the bed and floor could be clicked, viewed, and purchased. A porn video as a catalog, a video as a shopping tool. A spectacular idea for 2006 — but even without all the sex, it was a time-consuming production that didn’t translate well to the store system.

Date
28 May 2021

Author
Marcus Greye

Turbocharged Teleshopping and New Ad Formats

Fifteen years later, sales and the quest for sustained attention are no longer mutually exclusive — and sound-on video content has become the standard. The pandemic has accelerated the developments in e-commernce: It’s now the norm to order anything you need from anywhere in the world to your very own doorstep. Global brands and companies have had to rethink their flagship stores, their presence in department stores, and OOH experiences completely. With the world being in lockdown for such a long period of time, people have had to replace their social and cultural life with anything that could be reached via the internet: entertainment and shopping was brought into our homes even more than before. Now social networks and content platforms are retooling, dissolving the dividing line between entertainment and commerce altogether. New formats, technologies, and partnerships are turning content into increasingly straightforward commercial offerings. Videos as a shopping tool are taking on new importance. This is evident not only in the enhanced and live-streamed reincarnation of teleshopping, but also in an increasing number of new video ad formats.

To the max: Engaging Entertainment Machines

The history and development of social media in the past ten years is the story of a continuous minimization of friction. Where once fan gates guarded Facebook pages and feed content was generated according to people’s friends and likes, we are now nothing more than data points for an algorithm that curates our feeds and captures our undivided attention. Advertising formats and deals are integrated into people’s feeds as organically as possible, blending into the design and mechanics of every platform. They’re meant to be eyecatchers that still carefully avoid breaking the user experience.

The frictionless content champions? It’s TikTok. With TikTok, the algorithm is EVERYTHING, the social component a mere rudiment. “TikTok doesn’t even pretend to be ‘social’ media“, Cocoon’s CEO Sachin Monga recently wrote on Twitter. While Instagram or Facebook were still forcing users to create accounts and add their friends, TikTok’s “For You” page was a “straight dopamine IV-drip into your eyes and ears; the maximally engaging entertainment machine.”

For paying advertisers, the potential of such a dedicated, highly accessible target group is enormous, even more so since TikTok’s younger users can hardly be reached on other platforms. TikTok’s integration efforts for new advertising and sales formats should be making companies take notice, but so far, they’ve been but a niche topic in strategy and marketing calls. At the same time, TikTok’s push toward video commerce may be very impressive. It is, however, simply a symptom of a general trend: social media is becoming shoppable media.

Platforms integrate video commerce solutions

In the fall of 2020, TikTok launched the integration of the Shopify shopping platform. In February 2021, ByteDance announced that TikTok would soon offer integrated product catalogs. Livestream shopping and shoppable video ads are also part of the company’s e-commerce package, its main tool in competing with Facebook, especially in the USA. Facebook, in turn, also introduced shopping tools for Instagram and a digital shopping channel on its main page in some countries in 2020. YouTube is also jumping on the bandwagon by testing formats that aim to significantly shorten the funnel from an ad video to a completed purchase. In addition, the video giant recently announced new shopping features for connected TVs. The relative simultaneity of these developments can be beneficial for brands: With just a few adjustments, good format and content ideas can be rolled out broadly across the platforms and reach the right customers.

Asynchronous videos beat livestream formats

In the video segment, the integration of shoppable formats has so far not taken center stage yet for most brands. Rihanna’s integrated shopping revue “Savage X Fenty” in cooperation with Amazon Prime is a glossy example; brands like Orsay or Deichmann are using the format’s novelty effect for selective promotions and limited-edition sales. The live stream format continues to be attractive, especially because of it’s proximity to influencer marketing (and a lot of success stories from China). However, don’t discard the classic, asynchronously played ad video just yet: Shoppable video ads may seem less striking and innovative than a live stream shopping show, but they have the greater business impact, simply because they have a larger sales market. They offer the opportunity to build up a relevant distribution share via three large channels by opening up new target groups, coupled with direct reporting, precise performance monitoring, and the possibility of readjustments in creation and distribution.

Integrated Disciplines on the Rise

This development is the perfect example of how the disciplines of creation, production, and performance have been growing closer over the years. Together, they develop clever, original, attention-grabbing, but still organic ideas and productions. They roll them out in a targeted and precise manner, perfectly integrated into the respective platform and brand presence in terms of both content and structure. Shoppable video ads have the potential to be more than just a shopping window: a real point of sale that also contributes to the brand experience. The platforms are gearing up — agencies and brands should be ready with their own concepts and approaches.