Opinion: Catch the shoppable content wave

As COVID-19 sent our world into lockdown and brick-and-mortar retail came to a complete halt, e-commerce potentially got the final push it needed to become a sustainable habit, and with it, the birth of shoppable content.

Yes, e-commerce is becoming an inseparable part of our lives in the wake of the pandemic. Digital advertising solutions provider Criteo indicated that more than 50% of consumers now had more plans to shop online as a result of COVID-19, compared to just 17% who said they would now make few digital purchases.

However, with strapped budgets and fear of further economic downturns, this impressive growth is perhaps confined to a few sectors, namely fast-moving consumer goods and groceries. With no end in sight to the current situation, desperate retailers have turned to shoppable content to reboot consumers’ desire to buy. In other words, rather than waiting for shoppers to rise above their worries and willingly visit shopping sites, brands proactively sprinkle shopping avenues throughout their editorial to boost the urge to spend.

Such examples are Yahoo Hong Kong’s festive shoppable content for Mother’s Day and Mid-Autumn Festival, whereby direct links to the products were embedded alongside eye-catching pictorial slideshows, Yahoo Hong Kong-exclusive promotional codes and budget-saving offers – perfect for the current economic climate. The campaigns tap into online shopping trends as well as meeting consumers' growing expectations around content and e-commerce.

Though shoppable content is by no means a shortcut in the customer journey of discovery to transaction, it surely prolongs brand exposure whilst reducing the friction between consumer experiences and e-commerce by containing the journey within one single platform. More importantly, shoppable content ushers in a new era of content consumption whereby trusted portals for editorial become trusted portals for shopping, as entertainment will soon be replaced with shoppertainment.

Confirming this trend is Berlin-based frontend experience platform, Styla, who has worked for leading brands such as Henkel, JD Williams, OTTO, Thomas Sabo and Foot Locker. It reveals that pages helmed with shoppable content enjoy a 60% increase on time-spent on a page; a 22% click-through-rate to product pages; triple the retention rate; and over twice as many social shares.

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Video Stays King

Though shoppable content comes in myriad forms ranging from text, images, blogs, social media posts, digital magazines, quizzes and more, video, unsurprisingly, remains king.

A good example is Yahoo Style HK’s latest summer fashion mix-and-match featuring a short video of a model showing off various styles including office-to-nightlife transformations. The corresponding items are placed on a scrolling carousel that adjusts according to the style displayed in the video. Each item image appears alongside the brand name and price for easy reference, and is linked to the e-commerce website for immediate purchasing, encouraging customers to take action instead of just inspiration while ensuring minimal friction between browsing and buying.

Other media outlets, such as US-based Bravo TV, took an even more pioneering approach by pairing clips from TV shows to curated product guides with links to online retailers for a totally seamless and brand-proactive experience. Yahoo Hong Kong, meanwhile, debuted a page themed around COVID-19 featuring interactive maps, news updates and practical know-how with links to sanitary products like wet wipes, hand sanitisers, masks and more.

On the business end, these video-shoppable content packages boost viewers’ engagement and time spent on the page; on the consumer end, shoppers have access to trusted goods via an equally trustworthy portal. This is especially important in a day and age when fakes and imitators are prevalent.

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Users Take a Slice, Too

Another peripheral trend shoppable content brings is the expansion of the media landscape to welcome more user-generated content, which has long been proven to be a time- and cost-effective way to give brands a personal edge.

ASOS’ #AsSeenOnMe campaign, for instance, invites consumers to use the hashtag in their posts. Images are then collected and shared on the site, through which users have the opportunity to directly shop the look from these user-generated images.

COVID-19 has struck the world by surprise, sending ripples of change that, for some cause damage, and for others unveil fresh opportunities. While e-commerce is not a novel concept, global lockdowns have surely accelerated its demand. Shoppable content is the brainchild of opportunists: while consumers admittedly need some grooming before shoppertainment is fully integrated into our lives, this is surely a start.

The author is Rico Chan, co-head of APAC for Verizon Media.