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Shoppable TV: Are We There Yet?

Multi screening is something that marketers have been discussing at large for almost a decade now, so it’s not exactly a new phenomenon. Shoppable TV however, is a more recent development. Ever since WiFi became easily available in most people’s homes, we’ve seen a shift in how people consume TV content, with attention spans split between watching what’s on TV while surfing the internet via a second device. Although not a new trend in itself, the way people multi-screen is constantly shifting, as consumers become accustomed to using different types of devices including smartphones, tablets, desktops, and increasingly, Smart TVs.

Where multi-screening is concerned, marketers have narrowed it down and found that ultimately there are two forms of multi screening: stacking and meshing. Where stacking refers to viewers accessing unrelated content on the 2nd screen while watching TV, an increasing number of people are meshing, i.e. accessing related content to what they’re watching on TV, and this is the area that really interests marketers. Knowing that a TV viewer is likely to search for something related to what they have just seen on TV is a potential goldmine for some brands, so ensuring that it’s your brand that gets found in these moments is crucial.

With this in mind, we’ve seen the birth of ‘shoppable TV’ emerge, with brands developing smart technology that enables a connection to be made between the online and the offline, allowing consumers to seamlessly interact with what they’re watching on TV in real-time.

Shoppable TV first came to our attention back in 2014 during the Super Bowl halftime show. H&M sparked a real interest in this arena and put ‘t-commerce’ on the map, after running a half-time advert for David Beckham underwear, where viewers with a Samsung Smart TV could purchase products via the TV using their remote. Although case studies like this one haven’t really taken off, this was innovative enough to get people talking. And with smart TVs making their way into more people’s homes, we can expect to see more shoppable TV campaigns emerge over time.

With more and more people choosing to watch TV in a non-live format, either by streaming via Netflix or Amazon Prime, or by watching catch up TV and skipping the adverts, it’s time that brands look to other ways to connect with viewers outside of traditional 30 second ad slots. And in fact, for retailers to truly be ‘omnichannel’ present, that should surely also include the channel of TV, which should not be discounted as a viable shopping channel given the growth in adoption rates of smart TVs. And in fact, with this in mind, TV would no longer just be seen as a ‘branding channel’ that you can tap into with a 30 second ad slot, but ultimately be used to drive engagement and transactions by connecting with consumers online at micro moments when they’re ready to make a purchase. Much in the same way that social media firstly began as a channel to build brand awareness and create connections with customers, it is now a very competitive and strong channel to drive sales and will continue to increase in value in this respect, so we can expect TV to move in a similar direction.

Of course, shoppable TV as a concept in itself is not entirely new; viewers have been buying items seen on TV since the mid 1980s with the birth of shopping channels such as QVC, which are still popular today. However, the format of buying these items, and the birth of the internet, have sparked a change that makes it more complicated for brands to ensure that the products being seen on TV and then purchased online are their own. The difficulty is in making this connection seamless. As a viewer, if I’m watching a TV show and happen to really like something that one of the characters is wearing, how easy is it to find out what brand they’re wearing and where I can buy it from?

The team at Bravo Media has been making headway in shoppable TV, creating an online lookbook tied into a specific TV series, allowing viewers to buy clothes worn by the characters in its TV show. The Lookbook, a microsite with fashion and beauty content tied to the looks in its series “The Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce” hints at what is to come as it is a first step in making series shoppable, and engaging with the second screen market. While viewers are watching an episode, the show will prompt them to check out the Lookbook on where they can browse blog posts, see details of characters’ outfits, watch episode clips, and shop the videos. However the downside is that currently this is only available on desktop, which doesn’t tap into the mobile multi-screener market, showing that although an important step, there is still a way to go.

Much in the same way that we have seen social media channels find their place on TV, with hashtags now commonly displayed across TV ads, live shows or sitcoms to incentivise people to join the conversation, we are very likely to see the journey continue with integration of shopping options on TV. It’s not far-fetched to think that in time, it’ll be possible to purchase items worn by TV personalities at the touch of a button on your remote control, without having to do any of the leg work in finding out what the item is and where to get it from. It’s also not far fetched to think you would be able to purchase an item being advertised, such as a new TV or laptop, via your remote while watching the ad spot itself.

In essence, TV is the next great untapped device for eCommerce so, although not really as streamlined as some marketers would like it to be, the link between what’s appearing on TV and what people are searching for online is a strong one that needs to be capitalised upon, so it’ll be interesting to see where shoppable TV will be in time.

Here at mporium, we’re keeping a close eye on multi-screening trends and looking at how we can help brands reap the benefits. Make sure you subscribe to our blog to keep up with the latest trends by receiving articles straight to your inbox!

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