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Why And How Brands Can Leverage Shoppertainment

From the early days of the Pocket Fisherman to the ShamWow infomercials of the early 2000s, marketers have understood the power of video. The trick has always been how to convert those eyeballs into customers.

Cynthia Nelson is the Chief Strategy Officer of Revo Video, a robust shopping solution for Live, VOD and 1:1 shoppertainment.

From the early days of the Pocket Fisherman to the ShamWow infomercials of the early 2000s, marketers have understood the power of video. The trick has always been how to convert those eyeballs into customers.

Now, today’s digital, always-streaming, all-the-time online space makes it possible to seamlessly turn viewers into buyers. True: The number of options has created new challenges by fragmenting the marketplace. Consumers can watch what they want, when they want, wherever they are, and on whatever device they want. But as the chief strategy officer of a company that offers a video shopping solution, I believe this shattered marketplace has also created new curated shoppertainment opportunities.

Shoppertainment, which refers to shoppable video segments, uses video to drive viewership and contextual interaction with a brand or product. It often also leverages expert-created content to present highly immersive shopping experiences that combine entertainment and education. Done well, shoppertainment can even reinforce a sense of community among consumers who follow a particular brand or influencer.

In the wake of Covid-19, consumers became accustomed to getting such content whenever they want online. The upsurge in online shopping has even led to the shrinking of in-person retail traditions like Black Friday. In fact, last holiday season, Sensormatic Solutions’ data showed that retail store traffic on Black Friday weekend dropped 21.7% compared with 2019 levels.

But I believe the numbers—big numbers—are what are really driving shoppertainment now. According to a recent Boston Consulting Group report, shoppertainment could become a $1 trillion market by 2025 in the Asia-Pacific region alone. That’s more than double the value of the current market.

Retailers are already leveraging shoppertainment; for example, in Walmart’s collaboration with the cooking star Rachael Ray, viewers could watch a shoppable livestream on Facebook about her line of dog food and cookware. Network TV stalwarts are even beginning to use shoppertainment. This year, NBCUniversal and their hit show Love Island and ViacomCBS Consumer Products (with Emily in Paris) are seizing the “shopportunity.” Breaking with decades of broadcast TV tradition, in which product placements were typically as far down the merchandising path as showrunners were willing to venture, Love and Emily will both be shoppable.

Because people are watching online (including on big-screen smart TVs and even out of their homes in airports), consumers can now buy something on-screen with a single click or voice command. If companies execute it properly, shoppertainment can be a seamless experience where viewers become consumers and then return to viewing.

Screen time is also increasingly an Insta-TikTok world of short-form video engagement in which digital viewers don’t want a hard sell or fast-talking pitchmen. I am seeing more travel, technology how-to, DIY instruction, and self-improvement content online. Content for today’s consumers should be entertaining or educational or even provide a sense of personal improvement, which brands can achieve through strategies like sharing a new recipe or discussing a new charity.

Even in a fragmented, binge-whatever-you-want world, shoppertainment can be not merely effective but also cost-effective. Marketers can leverage it to quickly deliver new content as live events or by repurposing existing content to create new shoppable video FAQs or how-tos to continue to engage and convert consumers. For example, they could make a live cooking lesson into a recipe reference session with items to purchase; they could turn a fitness training demonstration into an instructional and shoppable video.

But to make it all work, marketers should determine how to own the customer, the transaction and the data across multiple platforms. When a social app changes its search algorithm, it can suddenly marginalize products. Moreover, those networks own much of the critical audience data. So, if marketers really want to understand their consumers, they should work to gather more detailed metrics of their own by comparing video analytics to shopping and conversions.

Brands can also use shoppertainment to leverage in-house specialists, as well as external creators or influencers. Brands should be sure to A/B test messaging, compare platforms, verify the consumer journey, and keep customers engaged—all the while delighting them with a more customized, personal touch.

Here are some tips to help engage and drive successful shoppertainment activations:

• Videos should be between three and 10 minutes long at a maximum. In fact, for a shoppable carousel of videos on a website, you should have three or four 30-second to one-minute videos.

• Videos are not just about promoting deals. In fact, I’ve found that a blend of shoppable short video and livestream entertainment with streamlined purchase capacity is most effective for driving digital consumer engagement and conversion.

• Make sure that you test content with different creators or influencers to find your “sweet spot” of activation that offers consumers entertainment and authenticity.

• Leverage content that you’ve already created for TikTok, Instagram, Facebook or even your website and test it in a shoppable format. Determine whether using shoppable video affects your spend.

• Use analytics to track and learn. Brands should work to learn about their customers and improve their offerings by looking at live viewer feedback, including chats, polls and promotions.

Ultimately, different forms of shoppable video will appeal to different kinds of customers. But one thing is certain to me: Unlike the old days of TV infomercials, the shoppable video experience can become a frictionless one. Indeed, shoppertainment offers new possibilities even for old products. You can still buy the Pocket Fisherman. But now you might be doing so via a live event or shoppable video hosted by your favorite influencer.

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Live shopping may have started in China, but now it’s picking up steam around the world. According to some studies, around half of companies in the US and Europe report incorporating live shopping into their strategies in 2021 or earlier, and livestream platform Bambuser says livestream-shopping viewership is growing by ~38% every quarter in 2022.Brands are using live shopping to increase sales and customer engagement year round, but with the holiday season looming, experts say it’s good timing for those who haven’t yet tested the livestream waters to jump in.Here’s how experts say brands can get started and get the most out of their video content:Keep it simpleDutta Satadip, chief customer officer at CX automation platform ActiveCampaign, said getting started with live shopping is a relatively light lift, even for smaller brands.“Today, the cost of producing a good product demo—which is basically what livestream is—it’s relatively low,” Satadip, who helped launch live-streaming options at Pinterest, told Retail Brew. And it’s a great opportunity for small and medium-sized businesses to bring traffic directly onto their site, he added.Adi Itach, chief marketing officer at live-shopping platform Buywith, said livestreams provide a more effective alternative to social media ads. “This is not a banner on Facebook or Instagram that is chasing after you,” she told Retail Brew. “We’re not fighting on eyeballs; we’re bringing the users to us.”Influencer Rachael Kirkconnell, who has hosted livestreams on Buywith for brands like Charlotte Tilbury and Steve Madden, said her livestream attendees are more engaged than her 867,000 Instagram followers.Viewers are “locked in” for the entire stream, and attendance increased throughout the events, she told Retail Brew. “You just don’t see that, especially if you’re going live on TikTok or Instagram.”Start early, start basic: Yaniv Navot, CMO of marketing-software provider Dynamic Yield, said even brands with small budgets can use livestreams to stand out in a crowded holiday-shopping landscape.Holiday sales aren’t an effective means of differentiation because the holiday shopping season starts earlier and earlier every year, and most companies will have a sale at some point, Navot said. They also don’t foster long-term loyalty, he added.Instead, brands should use livestreams earlier in the year to get their consumers excited about the holiday season. One strategy is scheduling live shopping events that highlight gifts for different people—mom, dad, significant others—he explained. “The trick is not to lead with discounts, but to weave them into an already engaging overall experience.”Satadip advises companies to feature their core products until they have a better understanding of just how successful the events will be. If sales are unexpectedly high, brands likely have enough inventory of the core products to meet demand. And there’s a longer horizon to sell those products in case the first livestream doesn’t meet expectations, he said.Brands should then use personalization tactics like basket expansion or recommendations based on purchase to leverage seasonal products, Satadip said.Work what you’ve gotLiz Ritzcovan, chief revenue officer at text messaging platform Hustle (which recently launched a video component), said brands should use video shopping to rope in their existing audience for the holiday season.“It’s the low-hanging fruit because they are customers that are already connected to you as a brand,” she told Retail Brew. “They know who you are, there’s trust, there’s that connectivity already happening.”And live-shopping campaigns have much faster turnarounds than more traditional options, which makes it a good option for brands finding themselves up against the deadline of the holiday rush, she explained.Reuse and recycle: Joel Leonoff, co-founder and CEO of live-shopping platform Revo Video, said he advises companies to use the video from their livestreams beyond the event itself, but that doesn’t mean they have to redo their strategy for the season.Making clips into shoppable videos is a simple process, Leonoff said. And those clips can be integrated into existing marketing efforts. “So if they’re already considering some type of email campaign, this is just putting it on steroids,” he told Retail Brew.

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