Is the Future of Online Shopping Through Video?

Published: Mar 6, 2023  |  

IT industry expert, Director of Growth at Media.Monks

Online video shopping

Illustration by Nikki Muller

Like many partnerships, opinions differ. In one particular example, it’s the difference of opinion of TV shows that my wife and I have. 

My (vastly nerdy) upbringing has made me a huge fan of sci-fi, fantasy, action shows, while my wife is a fan of shows like Emily in Paris, Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars. She’s obsessed and I genuinely can’t understand why, until one day when I pressed her a little more on her show choice and she responded with “I actually just love the clothes they wear.”

A light bulb went on in my head. While I’m focused on the amazing visuals of vast fantasy worlds and amazing fight scenes, she’s admiring the actors’ look, the trends, and fashion that appeals to her—and she’s not alone.

Fashion brands are consistently partnering with TV shows as it’s a proven model that brings in revenue. For example, as Vogue Business details, “The Regencycore trend, coined by shopping platform Lyst to reflect a surge in Bridgerton-style corsets and finery, hit 11.5 million views on TikTok this year.

None of this is new information. Products and fashion have been “advertising” on the screen for decades, but what is the next evolution?

Let’s look at the context of Mobile vs TV video viewing as a starting point:

According to a recent article by Russell Vilardi at Penthera, “Experts estimate that there are 6.64 billion smartphones in use worldwide today. They project that number will rise to 7.33 billion by 2025, an increase of more than 10%. Users spend four and a half hours each day on their phones—more time than they spend watching TV at home.“ 

Consumers spending 4.5 hours per day on their mobile phones opens up a whole new world of opportunities to advertisers. Unlike traditional TV, users have the ability to interact directly with the content they’re viewing through an easy “pause, review pop up information, and act” format. 

This method has been attempted in various formats with television, such as giving viewers the ability to “press the red button now to learn more” on their remote when a product or service comes up.

This was prominent in Australia during the mid 2000’s on paid television. If you ever had the misfortune of trying this out, you’d recognize pretty quickly that it was clunky and not a true, complete eCommerce experience.

Due to factors like the above, the idea of shopping through your TV has never really taken off in a big way, the exception of dial-in infomercials. My assumption is that, in today’s world, watching TV has become a “moment of peace” in many households—the one singular time you put your mobile phone down and turn on something to semi-mindlessly watch in order to calm your nerves after a long day. 

On the other hand, watching videos through your phone is likely to take place in situations where an individual is constantly “wired”—on the bus or train to school or work, during a break in the day, or simply while out and about, wanting some mental stimulation that the “real world” can’t provide.

Coupling this engagement with the user’s ability to immediately stop a video, review the content, and act upon it creates an incredible situation for advertisers looking to sell their goods.

Consider this scenario: my wife is on her break at work, watching a little bit of Emily in Paris on her smartphone, and especially loves the outfit that Emily is wearing at that point in the narrative. Currently, she would get onto Google to look up the episode, find the episode she’s watching, and look for the clothes Emily is wearing.

She’d then need to find a supplier of those clothes to see the price, shipping details, and purchase arrangements. After that, she’d finally hit “buy” to get the outfit in her size shipped to our door a day or two later. 

Imagine instead if my wife simply had to pause the video and all of the items in the scene popped up on her screen with a clear local price, local shipping details, and a “buy now” button. This is what is called “Shoppable Video.”

On the market today, there are a few Shoppable Video platforms like Uscreen, Bambuser, Clicktivated, and Australian startup, Vudoo. These products are gaining massive attention right now, not only for their platform’s ability to do shoppable video, but the highly personalized analytics their platforms are gaining.

With Vudoo, for example, their insights can provide businesses with exact moments where individuals show peak interest in their products, even if they don’t buy. This level of analytics is game-changing for sellers, as they can take that information and target that individual in an “abandoned cart” style way, simply due to them pausing a video.

Rachel Christian, Event Marketing Manager of Vogue Australia recently mentioned how Vudoo has been instrumental in helping the company pivot during the pandemic:

Vogue Australia has been working with Vudoo for 2 years now, helping us deliver fully Shoppable Runways in a time where we couldn’t host physical events due to COVID. Vudoo’s interactive video functionality allowed our consumers to “Shop the Look”, with the ability to purchase items directly from the video. 

Leveraging the shoppable technology within our content was the catalyst to shortening the path to purchase and driving an increase in conversions for our retail partners. Building on the success of our 2021 runway, Vogue brought the concept back for 2022 to support and amplify the return of Vogue Fashion’s Night Out, turning our offline event into shoppable content. We’re very much looking forward to continuing our partnership with Vudoo.

This same technology is being used in a “create your own journey”-style way, where businesses allow their consumers to personalize everything they want to see in an instant, just by clicking on the screen. In one example from their customer gallery, Vogue Australia partnered with Dyson to give consumers a “choose your own journey” interactive video, which helped showcase the different styles you can create with Dyson’s hair products.

This allows users to both visually see the potential looks and then simply press their screen to choose which style they wanted to learn about in a video format. This method gives the consumer ultimate freedom to see exactly what they’re looking for without having to scroll through a traditional video until they find what they actually want to see.

The use cases for this type of platform are endless. For example:

  • Helping users choose the most suitable home loan for their particular situation
  • Student advisory services in deciding which course they should enroll in
  • Choosing your particular fashion style for an event coming up
  • Deciding what clothing and equipment an individual should buy to achieve their fitness or sporting goals

There’s so much you can do with platforms like these, it’s hard to imagine the market not moving in this direction quickly.

Given the adaptability of this technology, and the heightened engagement levels this type of shopping experience provides, I’m betting that this space will most certainly be the future of online shopping. We’re likely to see almost all high fashion brands implementing this format, as well as all major Video on Demand (VOD) providers. 

I do, however, see some hurdles that need to be crossed before this becomes mainstream. One main one is the usability of the platforms. Today’s market demands the “speed of now” response time to everything that’s happening today.

Having to now storyboard multiple “journeys” in videos, then upload them to a platform, implement correct interactive key points, have everything on-brand, approved and ready for public viewing takes a good chunk of time if you’re doing it right.

Until this process becomes mainstream, with products being cutting edge, highly streamlined and working at a fast pace, I see this as a major hurdle in making shoppable video commonplace. 

In saying that, time is money, and if these videos are producing far higher amounts of interaction—and most importantly, sales—then the additional time spent is a good investment. 

Another question that will be answered with time is whether consumers actually want the majority of their videos to be interactive, or is the preference to simply watch a classic, uninterrupted, linear video clip from their favorite brand?

Whatever the case, it excites me when commodity products like online video get a new technological facelift. It’s this kind of disruption—or more so, evolution—of technology that serves to keep pushing the boundaries of how we live our lives.

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