From static content-shopping to live-stream retail

Predictions for 2017
The ways in which we shop have changed dramatically, and many trend reports predicted that ‘shoppable content’ would take off in 2017. Shoppable content is tech-enabled online content – videos, articles, reviews, images and so on – that allows consumers to buy featured products without being redirected to another site. Content is a vital contributor to brand experience, and in recent years the lines between content and commerce have become blurred. Brands 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.

What happened in 2017?
Despite shoppable content’s potential, its adoption by brands has been slow, with the notable exception of Pinterest’s buyable pins. This is likely to be because publishers still think of content first, with shopping as an afterthought. The back-end processes and technological expertise needed to integrate content with commerce must not be underestimated. An important part of providing a great purchasing experience is investment in the back end: stock and supply fulfilment, easy payment methods, prompt delivery, and no-cost returns. We believe this trend will pick up when publishers have the right partnerships in place to fulfil all parts of the retail process.

What’s next?
We believe shoppable content will continue to grow as seamless fulfilment processes become integrated into content. But there’s a new twist that will grow in importance in 2018: live-stream retail, in which consumers shop in real-time directly from live content. Live-stream retail is shopping-as-entertainment reborn for the smartphone generation.

China leads the way in embracing this new retail channel, which is accessible yet ephemeral, communal yet personal, and voyeuristic yet participatory. 41% of Chinese consumers use social platforms to receive promotional offers, versus 34% globally (source: PwC). For these consumers, making and consuming livestreams is a natural next step. For example, Macy’s – which sells officially through Tmall Global in China – used live-streaming to give consumers an exclusive look at its flagship store in Manhattan and offer them coupons that they could use when purchasing on Tmall. Live-streaming shopping is also happening, albeit more slowly, in other countries. 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. As with shoppable content, live-stream retail will pick up when the right back-end processes and technologies are in place.

What does this mean for marketers?
Now advertisers have made their images shoppable, video should be the next logical next step. The power of video for shopping is undeniable. with 87% of fashion brands, for example, 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 a way to drive conversions with shoppable video or shoppable content related to the video.

Video platforms are making it easier to add shopping to video, whether through 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 should test different formats and platforms and think carefully about how to integrate e-commerce call to actions into the video content they create. It is essential to create the right customer journey, and adding relevant shopping calls to action, without damaging the brand story and making the viewer feel like they are being sold to.

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