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Why shoppable content is a new frontier for customer acquisition: E-commerce retailers continuously seek new channels to engage their customers and must constantly redefine the shopping experience. Streaming platforms have high-quality content that emotionally connects with their viewers. When both industries look for synergies, a transformative trend can emerge: In-stream shopping will reshape how brands interact with their audience. Both sides can benefit.

An article on streaming innovation by Jay CEO Peter Effenberg

Retailers and streaming services share the same old problem. The former are always looking for new channels for sales, while the latter are constantly in search of new revenue streams. So far, streaming has been an underutilised channel for offering value in product positioning through emotional narratives, product placement and commercials notwithstanding. The emotional environment of streaming content offers a plethora of opportunities for e-commerce: interactive engagement and increased time spend within the content. Generating leads and sales from interactions. And it does so in a way that viewers, and therefore customers, find much more appealing than intrusive advertising. From my perspective, internet-based data technologies present an exciting opportunity for retailers and streaming to address their issues: Shoppable Content.

The integration of shopping options into streaming platforms has the potential for online retailers and streaming services to tap into new customer segments and strengthen viewer loyalty. Therefore, it is not surprising that both are currently cautiously investing in this avenue. Disney announced its “Shop the Stream” feature this year and NBCUniversal, Channel 4, and currently in Germany, RTL+ are testing shoppable content.

Today, retailers grapple with numerous challenges. The shift toward e-commerce and performance marketing has been notable, while traditional in-store shopping experiences have evolved in order to maintain customer loyalty in a world in which retail footfall is under threat. This evolution in consumer behaviour and the retail environment presents a unique set of challenges, meaning retailers must command the digital retail ecosystem while simultaneously maintaining the allure of physical shopping experiences.

Learning from Social Media

The current trends in technology-driven changes in consumer behaviour are coming from social media and are primarily used by younger target groups. Kantar recently substantiated this with a survey commissioned by Jay: 61.3% of those aged 18–29 already interact regularly with shoppable content on social media. And yes: for years, social media has become an important platform for product advertising and sales, utilising direct advertising, partnerships with influencers, and in-channel shopping to engage consumers.

Television and streaming platforms have largely missed out on these developments so far. Unlike social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, which offer direct product links and direct access to purchasing options, viewers of streaming content have had to search for products or information themselves. They’ve turned to Google, and others have made the money – just not the streaming platforms. Thus, opportunities were missed, not just to engage with a trend – but also to discover new business models.

But now, it seems that things are – slowly – starting to move: Partnerships like the one between Walmart and Roku and Peacock in the USA, or between RTL+ and Zalando in Germany, show that brands working with retail media networks report enhanced targeting capabilities supported by trust-building opportunities. The integration of in-stream shopping into streaming platforms represents a significant untapped potential for enhancing viewer engagement and generating additional revenue streams. For example, Insider Intelligence highlights that 57% of marketers view shoppable video content as the “next frontier”. This is also confirmed by Kantar: almost two thirds of the 1,000 respondents aged between 18 and 49 stated that they have previously wanted to buy an outfit from a film or series. One in two would also like a function that allows them to buy products directly while streaming.

The desire for in-stream shopping is particularly pronounced among the younger generation: 80 percent of 18-29-year-olds have expressed interest in purchasing clothing items featured in a movie or series, and 68 percent are interested in the integration of e-commerce options into the streaming experience.

However, one should learn from the existing offers on social media: because often, the brutally direct display of product offers within content is perceived as just as intrusive as commercial breaks on television or pre-roll ads in streaming. A more elegant approach: By providing content-based information within the streaming content, platforms can satisfy the immediate interest and curiosity of the viewer during viewing, thereby transforming passive watching into an interactive experience, and also score points with connected shopping offers. Such an experience then becomes a valuable feature for retailers and streaming services – and equally benefits the brands as it enables new revenues.

The right information at the right time

Because: the quality and quantity of content on streaming platforms is unparalleled, providing a rich foundation for storytelling, empathy, and aspiration. When experiencing cinematic emotions, I find inspiration not only to reflect and take action but also to consider various elements such as places, fashion, jewellery, and furniture. Thoughts like ‘I’d like to travel there one day’ or ‘I’d like to wear that’ often arise, along with ideas like ‘That would look good in our living room’. Yet, distributors fail to leverage cinematic emotion as a ‘springboard’ for action. Instead, I must visit Google and find the right keywords. Ideally, I’d be able to discover and bookmark people, locations, fashion items, jewellery, or props directly during the viewing experience and purchase them seamlessly. This approach would enable distributors and producers to benefit directly from their product in new ways. Only then does the desire for interaction arise. Understanding a viewer’s preferences and interests for certain actors, locations and fashion trends provides incremental datapoints to train ad serving technology and ensure advertising continues to feel relevant and – crucially – unobtrusive.

Personalised advertising can also be reimagined in this way: A nuanced approach that distinguishes between offering general information, targeted advertising, product placement, and direct sales is essential for creating meaningful and engaging viewer experiences. Or as Adrew Meaden, Global Head of Investment at GroupM put it: “With more ad-supported options emerging, advertisers must respect audiences’ preferences and use cutting-edge technology to deliver more personalized content.“

Integration of Worlds: The narrative-driven approach to shoppable content

Streaming platforms and online retailers can create more compelling shopping experiences by integrating narratives and “worlds” from content with shopping opportunities. This is not new; it is already happening on some retailer websites. Here you don’t just search for hiking boots, you enter the “mountain world”. A direct link to cinematic stories could lead to a more immersive and appealing experience for the viewer, encouraging exploration and purchase. A study by LG Ad Solutions showed that Shoppable content ads influence retail decisions for 81% of smart TV users, with 63% of smart TV users frequently discovering new brands and products through targeted TV ads. Within the right framework, this exploration can happen across platforms, seamlessly connecting the stories from the shows with the shop.

A detailed understanding of the viewer experience is especially important. Only then can the provision of additional information on the screen be successful. Because satisfying the basic informational needs of users about content in an engaging manner, in turn gives streaming services and retailers very detailed insights into their preferences and user behaviour. Beyond the currently measured basic demographic and device-specific information, such an offer enables the creation of a detailed user profile. And these detailed data are precisely the tools that both sides are seeking: for better and personalised content delivery through recommendation systems of streaming platforms, for targeted, indeed personalised advertising with a more effective approach.

Bringing the Store to the Stream: What does it take?

For shoppable content to reach its full potential, a foundational understanding of its feasibility and effective implementation is necessary. And here lies a key challenge of Shoppable content and Streaming: Shoppable content needs better PR. Douglas Montgomery, Senior Analyst at Aluma Insights, claims that despite a general appetite for the feature, the technology needs increased exposure and awareness. He also highlights the effectiveness of interactive formats like shoppable content: An impressive 73% of the 1,200 adults surveyed by Aluma Insights in the USA bought a product either immediately or shortly after it was shown.

Collaboration between retailers and streaming platforms is crucial, requiring a concerted effort to develop narratives that naturally incorporate shopping opportunities within the content. The entire user journey must be understood and planned. Because again; not all content is suitable for shoppable content features. While some shows and movies, like “Emily in Paris” or “Germany’s Next Top Model” may naturally lend themselves to such integrations due to their fashion-oriented content, other formats such as arthouse or war films might not be appropriate contexts for retail.

Developing narratives that naturally incorporate shopping opportunities requires thoughtful consideration of which content can be enhanced by shopping features, and at what moment those features should be introduced in order to meet viewers’ information needs or shopping interests without disrupting the viewing experience.

This necessitates the assembly of diverse teams to tackle the challenges of integrating eCommerce and content seamlessly. Speaking from my experience as CEO of Jay, here are some of the key components from our learnings to date:

Comprehensive Planning and Teamwork: Effective implementation of shoppable content necessitates the assembly of diverse teams comprised of people from both the streaming platforms and retailers. These should encompass experts in advertising, data analysis, cross-media content, editorial planning, business development, logistics and (very important) IT and app development. This multidisciplinary approach is crucial for crafting a seamless and intuitive shopping experience that is integrated with the content.

Solution Providers and Scalability: Finding a partner that offers scalable and adaptable solutions tailored to different types of content and viewer preferences is critical. This provider should understand the unique requirements of video content production and in-stream shoppable content, offering customisable designs and interfaces that enhance the user experience.

Metadata and Backend Integration: There’s a significant challenge in capturing and utilising content and production metadata, which is often lacking or lost in post-production. A solution provider must be capable of not only capturing this essential data but also effectively integrating shopping platforms in the background, ensuring that data is presented in a user-friendly interface within the streaming platform’s existing player and without necessitating a complete overhaul of the app.

User Experience and Interface Design: Finally, the success of in-stream shopping hinges on creating an engaging and intuitive user interface that allows viewers to interact with shopping features seamlessly, without feeling compelled to leave the platform. The goal is the creation of a smooth and integrated shopping journey – always close to the original content.

One thing is clear to me: the combined future of shopping and entertainment holds enormous potential, and shoppable content is on the verge of changing consumer behaviour to an unprecedented degree. The outlook is promising: as retailers and streaming platforms deepen their understanding of the digital ecosystem and create a seamless connection between desire and purchase, the shopping experience will become richer and audience engagement stronger than ever before. This process is more than just a new feature – it’s a crucial step towards an integrated future where every interaction creates value, and every curiosity can be satisfied. I think we are not only at the beginning of a new era of consumption, but that we are also on the cusp of a new culture of audience experience.

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2024 © transfermedia production services GmbH

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