Chinese brands have been bringing video and commerce closer together for a year or so now. The idea of entertainmerce is much more pronounced in China where the expectations of ecommerce platforms are very different. It’s not just about frictionless buying and rapid delivery. Alibaba’s Taobao hosts music concerts and offers short clips or live streams of many of its products. On TikTok, users will be able to shop as they scroll through its short-form videos via a new deal with ecommerce platform Shopify.
The other side of the world is working on catching up. In the USA, Facebook launched its Shops platform of digital storefronts in May 2020 and YouTube may be on its way to becoming a shopping platform. Google has been testing technology that would tie in tagged items in videos with Google Shopping, which could turn YouTube into a marketplace.
In China social (and therefore video) commerce sales are predicted to grow dramatically according to eMarketer. Sales are expected to ‘nearly double to Rmb3.280tn ($474.81bn) by 2023. To put that into perspective, social commerce sales in China totalled $186.04 billion (RMB1.285 trillion) in 2019—nearly 10 times the number of sales in the US, which reached $19.42 billion last year.
But could the UK be a prime region for video commerce to take off? It already has one of the largest and most advanced ecommerce markets within Europe. In 2019 ecommerce represented £200bn, one quarter of all UK retail sales. The prediction is that this trend will continue, with ecommerce reaching nearly a third of sales in the UK by 2024.
Coronavirus has had a huge impact on retail. It has also shifted the focus on to the online experience. Consumers can’t go to the shops for entertainment so easily, so the pressure is on the online shop to offer more; to be a place for entertainment, as well as shopping. This has lead brands like Burberry, ASOS and Levi’s to improve their online offering with livestreamed fashion shows, augmented reality and digital experiences.
One beneficiary of this shift is companies that offer the technology that enables live streaming gaming. Burberry says it will harness Twitch technology in its Spring/Summer 2021 fashion show, which means viewers can see multiple perspectives and communicate through the chat function… just as if they were at the show in real life.
The advantage of entertainmerce for UK brands is clear; it offers different ways to monetize online content. By the time the consumer is checking out a video, they are engaged and has developed a relationship with the brand. This is the place to add in an option to buy; video has become the new shop-the-image. It looks like the way forward for online shopping, buying happening in the middle of live streams.
This doesn’t just work for big brands with big budgets; start-up brands and YouTuber creators can do it too. It could offer an online revenue stream for the music industry. Band t-shirts have long been part of the gig experience, but how does that work in the age of corona? Imagine being able to buy your band’s merch in the middle of an online concert. It may not be the same as being in the mosh pit, but it could be the best way to see your favourite band and get the t-shirt in 2021.
On YouTube, creators have a new way to diversify revenue beyond just ads. They can now monetize their ideas by posting links to their merch immediately under their videos. This doesn’t have to be fashion brands who are used to the retail experience; anyone with a sizable following can offer merch to their fans. The important thing here is to combine entertainment with easy commerce. The best way to do that is to show the merch or clothing next to the video, where interest is greatest, to offer shopping without interruption.
Like TikTok connecting with Shopify, YouTube has recently partnered with one of our brands, Spreadshop, to provide this service. TikTok and Shopify will turn existing product imagery into videos for shoppable ads.
At Spreadshop, we enable YouTube creators to post their merch offering immediately under their videos. Rather than having to act as retailers as well as creators, we offer print-on-demand and cover all the backend fulfilment services. So the customer gets seamless shopping and the creator doesn’t have to hold any stock or manage taxes, payments and returns.
Erik Aanderaa has integrated his YouTube merch shelf with Spreadshop on his ’No Bullshit Just Sailing’ channel. He’s somewhat of an extreme sailor. You’ll search in vain for turquoise blue seas and secret bays in his videos. Instead there are breath-taking images of the Norwegian coast and the Atlantic Ocean. Erik wears his merch in his videos – t-shirts and hats – and notices that it has a huge effect on the sales. For YouTubers like Erik, this is a way to monetize his content and continue to fund his side-hustle. Monetizing merch helps to keep creators funded and in business. Consumers might not pay to watch the video, but it seems they will pay to get the t-shirt.
Video plus commerce is also a way of improving the serendipity of online shopping that’s often missing. It’s easy to come across something new when strolling down the high street or visiting the independent stores of the back streets. It’s much harder when searching on Amazon. Fashion brands and internet creators are already offering surprising and delightful experiences though their content. This increases the chance of consumers buying the associated original designs whether on merch or from a new season’s collection.
The potential success of video plus commerce is the combination of technology and the customer desire coming together at the same time. Brands, retailers and creators can all adapt video commerce to suit their level, their followers and customers. Entertainment and frictionless commerce are going to be the big trend of retail in 2021.
Philip Rooke, CEO, Spread Group