Shoppability is the New Black

It’s no secret that the Covid era has been coupled with lasting inflections in e-commerce spending. But that trend extends well beyond shopping on Amazon and other companies we tend to think of as retailers. It’s driving growth in e-commerce touchpoints so that more content is shoppable – everything from social feeds to real-world objects you point your phone at.

Over the past year, this has led to a gold rush to make everything shoppable. To be fair, this isn’t a new phenomenon given years of social media giants gradually adding buy buttons and transactional functionality to their feeds. This is a natural pairing as people like to share tastes and brand affinity, thus offering products a viral kick.

But like many Covid-driven trends, shoppable content has been accelerated by shifting circumstances. And now it’s on a collision course with the holiday season. This means that the companies that are positioned to capture that spend will reap the rewards this year. We’ve seen much jockeying in the ad tech world for this very reason.

So to provide a snapshot on this trend and how it’s playing out, let’s dive into three representative examples.

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1. Pinterest

Pinterest recently rolled out the ability for merchants to automatically create videos from the products they’ve already displayed on their accounts. This creates a slideshow that taps into the demand around videos and stories-based formats in social feeds. The videos also link directly to merchant check-out pages.

Pinterest creators can also now tag brands or products in their pins. This creates an insular affiliate marketing program within Pinterest’s four walls; brands can be alerted to these tags and then amplify them. The same pins can also be easily converted into ads on the fly, known as Idea Ads with Paid Partnership.

The opportunity, according to Pinterest, is to reach high-intent users who are in product discovery mode. Moreover, the company reports that 97% of the billions of monthly searches on Pinterest are non-branded. This gives brands a chance to influence decisions before consumers make up their minds.

Next up for Pinterest is “native checkout,” which compresses the purchase funnel to an even greater degree within Pinterest. The company currently links to merchants’ own pages for most transactions but, as Instagram has done, it will increasingly host transactions on its own pages to reduce shopping friction.

2. TikTok 

The wild card in the world of social media is TikTok. Now that TikTok’s geopolitical uncertainties have mostly settled, the questions shift to how its discovery-based use case translates to effective ad formats. Much like Instagram and Snap’s ad integrations, those formats will follow and blend with TikTok’s organic fare.

And the wheels are already turning for TikTok, as it reports the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag — applied when users boast TikTok-inspired purchases — has grown to 4.6 billion cumulative uses. TikTok users are also 1.7 times more likely to purchase products directly through its app shopping features.

Moreover, TikTok has met the moment with a steady string of shopping features and integrations. For example, its recently expanded partnership with Shopify bakes TikTok’s ad creation and distribution workflow directly into Shopify. The latter’s merchants can access these tools in its familiar dashboard.

This followed the previous release earlier this year of TikTok Shopping. This essentially lets Shopify merchants that have a TikTok For Business account add a ‘Shopping’ tab to their TikTok profiles. That in turn lets them sync product catalogs and create mini storefronts on TikTok. So the integrations continue to expand in several directions.

These collaborations were followed earlier this month by a new slate of TikTok partners. They include Square, Ecwid, PrestaShop, Wix, SHOPLINE, OpenCart, and BASE. Like the Shopify integrations, these new partners can now offer their respective users direct ways to tap into TikTok Shopping, such as syncing their product inventory.

All of these integrations are about creating a better one-stop so merchants can sell their wares on TikTok with less friction. They are also about giving consumers a place to discover, transact, and check out – all without leaving TikTok. Altogether, it’s clear that TikTok is launching an all-out shopping blitz.

Looking forward, TikTok has also announced that other shopping integrations are coming, including a shopping API. As APIs go, this will bring many of the above integrations to a wider range of companies. In other words, partnerships won’t necessarily be needed for various services to plug into TikTok. Just grab the API and go…

3. YouTube

YouTube is also elevating its status as a place where shopping is done. The company announced recently that it’s expanding its existing video action campaigns to connected TVs. For those unfamiliar, this is one of Google’s interactive video ad types on YouTube desktop and mobile.

Specifically, the feature lets users click in-video links to be taken to a shopping page on a brand or advertiser’s website. The CTV expansion now brings this functionality to the living room for better “lean back” interactivity. Google will do this by working with connected TV interfaces such as Apple TV.

The timing and relevance of this move are underscored by the growth in CTV viewers, a category that has inflected over the past 18 months. YouTube reports that 120 million people stream YouTube on their TVs monthly. And 90% of conversions in its trials weren’t reachable on mobile and desktop.

Following these moves, YouTube just this week announced that it’s expanding its program for live shopping. This gives merchants a QVC-like format to stream product demonstrations. It’s rolling the whole thing out through a week-long event called “YouTube Holiday Stream and Shop” starting November 15.

So, there you have it — three formidable players have raised their shopping game. What’s next? We predict more such activity across the board, including at Facebook, Snap, and Instagram. But the wild card in all of this is TikTok, as it is earliest in its lifecycle and growing the fastest. Expect more commerce integrations to come.

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Mike Boland has been a tech & media analyst for the past two decades, specifically covering mobile, local and emerging technologies. He has written for Street Fight since 2011. More can be seen at www.mikebo.land