Shoppable content began as a way of turning visual images into sales, and is now moving into online video and live-stream retail, which enables consumers to shop in real-time directly from live content, boosting engagement and sales from this growing retail platform.

Shoppable content is online content that allows consumers to buy featured products without being redirected to another site. The development of shoppable content is very much a natural progression for brands, which have been harnessing new technologies and platforms to drive product discovery and personalise the shopping experience.

Advertisers started by making their images shoppable, after which video was the next logical next step. The power of video for shopping is undeniable: transaction rates for video content are 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.

Video platforms are making it easier to add shopping to video, 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, such as Cinematique’s touchable videos. Marketers need to test different formats and platforms and think carefully about how to integrate e-commerce calls to action into the video content they create.

And there is a new twist on shoppable content that will grow in importance in 2018: ‘live-stream retail’ enabling consumers to interact with brands and shop via livestreaming. Live streaming retail, or shop streaming, is already popular in China, where Deloitte expects it to be worth US$4.4bn in 2018, reaching 456 million viewers. Chinese brands have found success by hiring Chinese internet influencers to promote and sell their products, which are often offered at special discounts. The conversion rate can be up to 32%, according to Taobao Live.

This shopstreaming works best for speciality 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 that 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.

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