July 15th, 2014 | 6 MIN READ

Shoppable Video: Hit or Miss?

Written by author_profile_images Linda Bustos

Linda is an ecommerce industry analyst and consultant specializing in conversion optimization and digital transformation.

Shoppable video isn't new (Get Elastic first covered Youtube's efforts to support click-to-buy for brands in January, 2009). And despite its potential pros, only a handful of brands and online retailers have experimented with it.


So is shoppable video a flop, or is it just underrated?

Why shoppable video makes sense

  • Leverage existing content (including still images), turn them into transactional content marketing
  • Make online advertising more actionable, transactional
  • Create more engaging media content for affiliates and PR campaigns
  • Merchandise "shopping walls," digital kiosks, pop-up shops and other non-store physical shopping venues
  • Remove friction in discovery process (video that doesn't click through to product page leaves too much work for the customer)
  • Collect richer engagement metrics with media, easier to measure conversion rates and ROI of content marketing

On paper (or screen), this tactic should be blowing up...

Why hasn't shoppable video taken off?

Shoppable video's lag may be due to:

  • Brands and retailers unaware of the technology and its potential
  • The tactic's unproven ROI and lack of public case studies makes CMOs hesitant to experiment
  • Overlaying video with product hotspots may make the content come across too "salesy" for consumers
  • Brands and retailers may not be doing a good job distributing this content
  • Customers may simply not want to shop this way (remember co-browsing and Facebook stores?)
  • Video hotspots may be lacking the product detail information buyers want
  • Shoppable video in general may have user experience problems

Some potential UX problems of shoppable video include:

  • Clickable targets too small or not recognized as interactive hotspots
  • Hotspots not appearing long enough
  • Technical glitches like text/hotspots overlapping or links not working
  • Video that either pauses or does not stop when engaged with (depending on what's best for the user)

Shoppable video tips and examples

TRESemmé - understand context

In collaboration with Youtube, TRESemmé hair products has shop-ified its channel, complete with shopping bag. Products are recommended to purchase directly through online channel partners like Drugstore.com.


You may be asking yourself if Facebook Commerce failed, why would Youtube commerce win?

F-stores were merely replications of product catalogs sitting inside Facebook. Branded content channels are a different medium, and making it faster to locate and purchase items featured in this content is a different value prop.

Brands like TRESemmé, however, may not succeed at driving the most online sales this way. Its products are readily available locally, or substituted by similar products a viewer may already own. As with any social campaign, it really depends on the product, customer and purchase context.

Juicy Couture - use a clear call to action

Juicy Couture's hot-spotted short film featuring Victoria's Secret Angel Candace Swanepoel hits and misses.

Hit: Using obvious hotspots of large, white boxes and descriptive link targets with call to action "shop now."


Miss: Links are shown out of context. Are you buying the shoe, the cat collar, Candace's necklace, or dress? Hotspots should only appear when proximal to the product being merchandised. Link targets are also too close together in this example.


Juicy's video also suffers from a technical glitch where links begin to overlap each other as the video rolls on, making nothing readable or clickable.

MAC Cosmetics - leverage ad slots

MAC understands beauty gurus are their best friend when it comes to Youtube buzz. Capitalizing on the popularity of make-up tutorials, it targets viewers of this genre with an ad for viewing the brand's own shoppable video tutorials.


MAC Cosmetics - turn video into a product page

MAC lets the video play without interruption, with the featured products displayed in a sidebar. Product can be selected and added directly to the cart, with the customer directed to a cart page on its site.



Neiman Marcus - social sharing

Neiman Marcus offers a shop link along with Twitter / Facebook, but misses the Pinterest opportunity, which is a more appropriate social network to post fashion items to.


Diane Von Furstenburg - Google Hangout

DVF humanized her brand when she hosted a home-shopping like Hangout with real-customer participants and Youtube star Michelle Phan.


All items featured in the Hangout are shoppable from the sidebar.

Target - site merchandising

Target's Falling for You campaign features TV star Kristen Bell, with a special merchandised page where you can shop directly from the video sidebar, or view all products featured in the web-series on the page below.


Target - second-screen merchandising

Target teamed up with Cougar Town to offer a second-screen shopping experience.



While certainly innovative, second-screening is not as popular with consumers as marketers want to believe, though nearly 20% of consumers surveyed by NPD Group indicated they've shopped for products featured in ads on their second screens.

Shoppable video, in my opinion, still has potential as direct-response, multi-media content marketing. But its execution, distribution and optimization is what will make it work for one brand, and fail for another.

Tips for shoppable video campaigns

Start small

This isn't a mainstream, proven tactic yet. Like iBeacon, the brave will experiment without committing to too much. Try one video or campaign, and evaluate for yourself.

To kick the tires, WireWax has a free tool you can use to experiment with, adding tags and links to any Youtube video.

For a premium solution, you may ultimately work with Youtube directly (like MAC and TRESemmé and their store-within-Youtube-channels), an interactive agency, or shoppable video vendors like WireWax, LiveClicker or Pokeware.

User test

Like a web usability test, pull some real people into a lab where you can observe their response to the media, including how intuitive your link targets appear to be, how "usable" your video's features, and ask how likely the customer would be to prefer shoppable video to regular videos.

Consider testing radically different approaches to shoppable video - for example, a single product being demonstrated and described in the clip vs. a more traditional "brand ad" featuring a number of products.

A/B test on your site

Create a shoppable and non-shoppable version of the same short video, and place it on your home page or other designated area. Measure engagement with the video, abandon/exit rate and click through to product pages (conversion rate is a secondary metric in this case, you're concerned with shoppable video's ability to drive interest in learning more about the product or adding it directly to cart).


Don't just distribute to your branded Youtube channel - get your shoppable video out on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, distribute to affiliates, link to it from emails, your blog, feature it on your home page...etc.

Leverage existing video assets

You may have an archive of product video that lives on Youtube that could benefit from being tagged with direct links to your products. For example, Home Depot's social campaign #LetsDoThis could link directly to the "orange Homer bucket" that stars in the clip.



Maintain your landing pages

How do you handle sold-out items? Neiman Marcus' product pages stay live, and prominently shows product recommendations.


Note that the product page URL need not be accessible through its category menus or search, just to save the opportunity to sell to the video-referred customer. An advanced move would be to serve available product recommendations from the Rachel Zoe accessories collection featured in that particular video (through encoded links and targeted selling rules). If all the collections' items are sold out, show the current collection.

Tip: Landing product pages are often neglected in all sorts of campaigns, so it's a good practice to keep/merchandise whether you're using shoppable video or not.

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