Forget the wallet and coupons. Shopping in 2019 is more likely to involve two other essentials: a digital device and a bowl of popcorn.
One of the biggest names in retail, Walmart, is investing in entertainment that will include shoppable programming. Its Vudu streaming video service, which offers digital access to videos sold at Walmart, is expanding into original content and will include a number of "shoppable" shows.
It's another way retail is stepping into the path of shoppers wherever they are, and if they are binge-watching, then it must be embedded within those programs. For shoppers, this could represent the most literal blend of shopping and entertainment, with potential purchases cat-walking across the screen in the context of storylines.
Consumers should expect to see more options:
- Instagram offers Checkout on Instagram, a feature that enables users to buy products directly from the social platform without leaving the app. Brands include Warby Parker, H&M and Burberry.
- Target plans to rebrand its Target Media Network to include a new name, Roundel, and fresh brand content - including for products not sold at Target. All will be streamed on Target's website and other channels, including PopSugar and NBCUniversal, but there are no plans for shoppable ads.
- NBCUniversal, meanwhile is launching ShoppableTV, where interested TV viewers can buy products featured in shows by holding their smart phones to the screen during "on-air shoppable moments." Among the channels participating will be NBC, NBC Sports, Telemundo, USA Network, Bravo, E! and CNBC Prime.
- Amazon offers a live-streamed network, called Amazon Live, that features branded videos of the latest deals (often product demos) with prices, ratings, and Amazon purchase options directly below the live stream.
Is Amazon Prime Video next, in the form of opt-in shoppable ads? And if so, will Netflix - which also has no advertising - follow? The answer likely depends on how much shoppers accept, and take advantage of, the coming "shoppable moments".
DON'T SELL US, ENTERTAIN US
Retailers are on the right track by following shoppers to the screen. An estimated 60% of all TV viewers binge watch, and 45% of young viewers have cancelled social plans in favor of catching a program. Those social plans could include shopping.
Walmart responded in 2018 by announcing Vudu would revive the 1983 movie Mr. Mom as an original series. In May it revealed additional content plans that would include shoppable ads. Among the coming shows: a travel and comedy series called Friends in Strange Places; a science fiction program, Albedo; and a documentary series, Turning Point with Randy Jackson. Vudu also plans to deliver a teen movie, Adventure Force 5, as well as test an interactive program that could debut in 2019 or 2020.
This blending of entertainment and acquisition will form a cycle: Consumer activity will generate insights that will feed content decisions, which will be reintroduced to viewers to respond to once more. Product categories that get lots of purchases (read: popular) may figure more largely into programming.
CONTENT IN CONTEXT: WHY SHOPPABLE PROGRAMMING FITS
Here are three potential reasons why it makes sense.
1. Character building. Storylines generate emotional engagement, frequently to the characters. Shoppable programming could potentially extend that connection to the products the characters use and wear. For example: If a character is given a piece of jewelry in a very romantic scene, followed by an ad for jewelry, sales of that jewelry may skyrocket. More than 25% of people who see online ads respond by searching for the product or brand, according to the brand consulting firm Invesp.
2. They have the technology, and the data. Walmart has said it is using shopper data to guide its content from early childhood to parenting. Target’s Roundel will use customer insights for more original, and personalized, ad campaigns. And the purchase activity generated on Amazon Live could inform the content on Amazon Prime Video. Do a disproportionate number of Prime Video viewers tend to shop Amazon Live, and if so, is there a correlation between ad and programming view times that could determine when to run specific video ads?
3. Viewer activity equals shopper control. If overt marketing on their programs turns off viewers (even opt-in viewers), they could just stop watching. Retailers should prepare for this early on and be able to detect when in a series the numbers climb or decline. They can tweak programming accordingly, and even engage viewers via email (opted-in by the viewer, of course) to find out what went wrong.
By offering shoppable programs, Walmart is delivering on a prediction that retail futurists have been making since the 1990s. But product sales will only be good if the programming holds up. Netflix may not have joined the fray yet, but it also may be taking a back seat in the theater to see how viewers respond.