Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was one of the first to predict the rise of all things shoppable when he declared back in 2010: “If I had to guess, social commerce is the next area to really blow up.”
We’ve not experienced a full-scale explosion just yet, but brands are fanning the flames and working towards enabling people to buy their products instantly, through every medium from Twitter to TV. This year’s Super Bowl halftime show, which starred Katy Perry, was something of a milestone for shoppable. For the first time in the event’s history, people could buy merchandise related to the show through their connected TVs and smartphones.
While progress is being been made, advertisers are still not advancing as fast as technology and consumer expectations. So how do marketers equip themselves for a shoppable revolution?
One of the major barriers to progress is the traditional structure of the marketing department. Brand budgets are generally split between retail sales and advertising. Having trade and brand marketing functions run by separate teams is not conducive to shoppable advertising.
“All of those people have to come together to make work shoppable,” says president and global head of retail experience at Cheil Worldwide, Simon Hathaway. His agency was the one behind Tesco Homeplus’ virtual subway stores in South Korea, which enable customers to shop via their smartphones while waiting for trains. “That’s a big logistical challenge,” he adds.
Social commerce cannot bypass the creative process. “If your shoppable work is not emotional then it isn’t going to drive an action,” says Hathaway.
Creativity is as fundamental to shoppable as it is to traditional advertising, practitioners argue. Jim Holmes, chief technical officer at Adjust Your Set, a company that creates shoppable content for brands such as Marks & Spencer, says the traditional creative process needs to merge with user experience design and build. “Marketers must learn the importance of marrying traditional with technological creative,” he says. “This must start at the briefing stage.”
It’s no coincidence that brands that are successful at social commerce focus their efforts on trends, cultural movements and events. L’Oreal Paris made the red carpet at this year’s Golden Globes shoppable, with a social media campaign that allowed people to buy cosmetics and recreate fashion looks as they saw them at the ceremony. Megan Trinidad, creative director at R/GA, the agency behind the campaign, says: “Cultural relevance is really the thing that makes those experiences fly. It’s just about finding those places where you can really participate with your consumers in a way that feels natural and feels like a favour to them.”
Retail brands dominate when it comes to shoppable content: Topshop presented a click-to-buy collection during London Fashion Week; Mark Jacobs products are instantly shoppable via Instagram; and H&M launched a shoppable TV ad starring David Beckham at the Super Bowl in 2014. Advertisers without a footing in retail have an obvious disadvantage, which has slowed progress in shoppable, but reaching out to retailers could help their cause.
Topshop’s Social Catwalk at London Fashion Week in September 20145. Keep it simple and seamless
No matter how engaging your campaign is, forcing a customer to go through several tedious stages in order to buy a product will prompt them to drop out of the process entirely. So brands need to take the friction out of the shopping process, says Mike Fitzsimmons, chief executive of Delivery Agent, a US firm that provides brands with an e-commerce platform for TV shopping.
The company collaborated with Pepsi to produce the Super Bowl halftime show and was also behind H&M’s shoppable Super Bowl ad. “You want to make it easy for consumers to go through the purchase funnel from discovery to purchase,” says Fitzsimmons.
It’s also crucial that video works in tandem with the shoppable elements within it. As Holmes says: “We’ve seen many examples where the user is expected to click on a product in a film that is moving quickly across the frame. The video pace and content should be tailored to the eventual user experience.” Likewise, the shoppable functions shouldn’t detract from a user’s enjoyment of the content.
Shoppable products have made their way on to TV shows in the US, such as the Fox Network sitcom New Girl. Gap is taking this a step further by launching its own soap opera on Instagram. As well as film and TV companies, brands are also working with YouTube’s army of vloggers to make “how to” videos on everything from cookery to cosmetics shoppable. Apps that use visual recognition technology to source items online that users see in the real world, such as fashion startup Asap54, will also drive the future of social commerce.
Consumers will soon come to expect every piece of branded content they encounter to be shoppable. To meet those expectations brands will have to be connected. While we are moving on from the humble QR code, shoppable marketing is still at a nascent stage. “I think there’s been a lot of experimentation, but I don’t think anyone’s struck gold yet,” says Trinidad. “It’s an exciting time.”
Cheil Worldwide is a member of the Marketing Agencies Association
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