Brands’ investment in original digital video has nearly doubled over the last three years, and this growth will continue. What began this decade as a US$730m marketplace is now projected to grow to US$26bn by 2021. Branded content has evolved to re-shape the balance of power in digital marketing, but has a critical vulnerability: measurement.

Effective branded content offers advertisers an opportunity to engage with consumers in a uniquely intimate way, incentivising brands to build ongoing relationships with audiences who may make a purchase in the future. But it lacks any unified measurement standard that effectively ties product sales back to content investment. In fact, a 2018 IAB survey found that 34% of brand marketers consider ‘ROI vs. Other Media’ to be the single biggest obstacle to spending more in original digital video.

The early iterations of digital branded content were measured by clicks back to an advertiser URL. By the middle of the decade, when digital publishers embraced the model of distributing content across social platforms, success in branded video meant racking up as many views as possible. Now, when content views have become commoditised, measurement has shifted to engagement: completion rate, shares, comments, etc. The exact definition of engagement differs from publisher to publisher, exacerbating the complexity produced by competing third-party research and brand lift studies.

To cut through this mess, the industry needs to develop a consistent, intuitive framework that simply makes sense to marketers, and draws a direct link between content and commerce.

Shoppable content – which allows consumers to purchase products and services directly from content – has great potential to connect the dots between a brand’s investment in content and its return on that investment. While the idea of shoppable content is hardly new, media companies have only recently unveiled scalable and semi-automated capabilities that allow brands to drive product sales from within their content.

The primary appeal of shoppable content lies in its ability to satisfy the instant desire to purchase that content arouses in its audience, creating a streamlined and simplified purchase funnel. When consumers are able to make purchases seamlessly and impulsively, brands will quickly reap the benefits. Shoppable content also provides a clear and conclusive link between investment in content and sales.

To make shoppable content work for them, brands need to offer a clear and surprising benefit to consumers, enough to make them want to buy the brand at once, perhaps by solving a tangible life problem or saving time. They also need to be the sort of product or service that consumers are comfortable buying at once, without further consideration – cars probably wouldn’t work too well, for example. Brands that add utility or efficiency to consumers’ lives and can be bought on impulse should be the early movers in shoppable content. Shoppable content promises to fulfil marketers’ two main objectives at the same time: building brands and driving sales, in a direct and measurable way.


Marketing imperatives

  • Use shoppable content to turn your owned content into a direct sales channel
  • Focus on brands that offer an immediate benefit to consumers, one they are happy to pay for on impulse
  • Use the subsequent return-on-investment data to optimise your content strategy
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