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YouTube Follows Insta & TikTok With Livestream Shopping Trials

YouTube social commerce comes to influencer livestreams

YouTube has upped the ante in the battle to create more revenue from video content. It’s recently announced a pilot test that will allow users to shop directly from livestream videos published by creators and accounts.

Matt Madrigal, VP/GM of Merchant Shopping, Google

“We’ve been beta-testing an integrated shopping experience.

We’re now piloting this experience on livestreams with a handful of creators and brands. So if you’re watching a supported livestream on YouTube, you can browse and shop products in real-time, without interruption.”

Shop within video

Initially designed for on-demand video, YouTube has expanded the beta into livestream video and recently held a one-day shopping event for smaller businesses.

Viewers who stumble upon an integrated shopping experience will be able to shop for products shown in the video by tapping a ‘view products’ button, which will bring up a list of featured items.

The update will allow YouTube to compete with Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat and Amazon, which have all started to pivot towards more immersive video experiences.

The benefits of new video experiences, such as live shopping, are varied:

  1. Increase consumer engagement and time-on-site
  2. Adds value for brands and marketers

But outside of the obvious, one of the more significant benefits of social commerce comes from the data and intelligence it provides.

Or to use the technical jargon, commercial signal.

A point made clear by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg concerning Instagram Checkout when it launched.

Sheryl Sandburg, Facebook COO, July 2019:

‘If we can help people close the loop a little more, so they are looking more directly products, that makes our ads more valuable.

It also closes the loop on the data and measurement, we’re going to need going forward. So, we’re excited about these efforts for doing a lot across the board.

All of them are in their early stages and we think about this primarily from a consumer and closing the loop point of view more than a monetization in and of itself point of view.’

Seamless demand generation & acquisition

Brands and marketers stand to benefit in a big way since you’ll finally be able to make the most of YouTube’s powerful product discovery potential.

Millions across the globe watch product reviews, unboxings, and shopping hauls – but brands often had no way to sell to consumers from within a video directly.

Links in the description or via in-video elements have been the only way to drive people to online stores. Now that should all change. Purchasing will become more accessible and more intuitive, which should lead to higher conversions.

The latest YouTube trial forms part of a broader move by the video behemoth to further expand its direct response offering for marketers.

Phillip Schindler, Chief Business Officer at Google, April 2021:

DR [edit: Direct Response] was practically non-existent on YouTube a few years ago, and it’s now a large and fast-growing business, and we are just getting started, in my view.

People already, as you know, go to YouTube to decide what they want to buy, and we want to make it easier for them to buy and make the discovery process overall a lot easier.

And for creators, we launched new shoppable capabilities. So viewers can actually make purchases from their favourite creators directly on YouTube.”

YouTube has stiff competition

YouTube does have some competition within the live shopping space from competitors like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok:

  • Facebook has launched Live Shopping Friday, which helps customers discover new products and ask questions about size and fit in real-time. Brands can show off their latest and greatest and complete purchases using Shops without leaving Facebook.
  • Instagram’s live shopping is available in the US and allows businesses to sell products directly through an Instagram Live broadcast. Brands need to have access to Instagram Checkout, but once they do, they can livestream videos that allow customers to make purchases without leaving the app.
  • TikTok has plans to move into a live shopping space that will look similar to the TV channel QVC. TikTok’s latest move will complement its range of social commerce features, such as its partnership with Shopify and Walmart.

While YouTube is not necessarily an early mover in this space, the combined strength of its vast reach, long video watch times, existing creator community and cross over with Search could easily mean that it eventually comes from the back of the pack to lead.

Watch this space.

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