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Exploring the Current Shoppable Media Opportunities

14 MINUTE READ | February 6, 2018

Exploring the Current Shoppable Media Opportunities

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Maddie Owen

Maddie Owen has written this article. More details coming soon.

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In the effort to merge the shopping and social experience for brands, many social media platforms have been developing ways for consumers to discover, review and shop product offerings – all within the social media apps and platforms they love. And for a good reason, in 2017, 74% of shoppers used social media to inform their purchase decisions, and because these shopping opportunities are all the rage, we’d like to spend some time reviewing all the options your brand could choose.

With a global community of over 600 million users and over 80% of people following a brand or business-related account, Instagram is the place people go if they want to discover new things from their favorite brands or explore new products.

Instagram Shopping is an organic product offering that is available to businesses in the fashion, apparel and beauty categories in the US-only that enables brands to create and tag Instagram posts with products directly from an iOS mobile device.

One reason Instagram Shopping is so appealing is that, with over 25 million business profiles worldwide, 60% of users say they’ve discovered new products on Instagram. And while Instagram Shopping is US-only at the moment, Instagram has expanded the offering’s initial capabilities to make the path from discovery to purchase easier than ever.

Shoppable posts on Instagram are differentiated from regular posts with a shopping bag icon in the corner of the image, and allow users to tap and shop the products that are tagged in an image. When a product is clicked on, a new window appears within the app where the tagged products can be easily purchased.

At the time of writing this post, tagged shoppable posts can only be applied to a single Instagram photo as the feature has not been adapted for carousel images or video yet.

The second shoppable feature on Instagram lives within their Stories feature as business profiles on Instagram can link to a webpage within an Instagram Story. Once the link has been added to the story, users can quickly “swipe up” while watching the story and be directed to a shopping page. Similar to the shoppable posts on Instagram’s design, a user never leaves the Instagram App so purchases can be made in a matter of seconds through Instagram Stories.

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Instagram’s shoppable features are easy to use and designed to connect consumers with brands in a seamless experience.

As the app moves further into the e-commerce space, Instagram recently started testing ad units that blend videos and product catalogs – similar to the Shoppable Collection Ads unit on Facebook.

Image sourced from Ad Age.

As Sherly Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, spoke to last week, “Instagram is a business’s visual shop on mobile,” strengthening the case for fashion, beauty and retail brands to take advantage of Instagram’s shoppable advertising opportunities.

IMO: An easy to use, organic feature that helps brands promote their products on the platform, what’s not to love? As a huge Instagram fan and lover of branded social content, I think Instagram shopping is an excellent touchpoint brands can quickly take advantage of to meet consumers where they’re at — Instagram. Plus, the UX is flawless, and checkout is quick and simple.

To learn more, check out the feature release here.

Like Instagram, Facebook has recently expanded their deck of shoppable opportunities to ensure that users are able to not only connect with family and friends but discover and shop for products as well. Interestingly enough, Facebook has over five million advertisers on their platform, but when put into perspective, that’s only a few of the 64 million active businesses on Facebook. After learning that nearly half of active mobile users are actively looking for products on the platform, Facebook developed native shopping experiences: Shoppable Collection and Canvas ads.

With the intention to simplify the path from discovery to purchasing, Shoppable Collection ads are visually-based and allow consumers to browse multiple product offerings – all in one advertisement experience. Once Facebook users interact with a Shoppable Collection ad, they are directed to the brand’s mobile website or app to view and/or purchase the product.

Collection ads actually work in conjunction with Canvas ads, another form of shoppable media on Facebook. When someone clicks on a Collection ad on a mobile device, they’ll be directed to a Canvas ad, which turns the shopping path into a full-screen experience.

The creative formatting opportunities on Canvas Ads are quite expansive; allowing brands multiple ways to engage with their customers. From the ability to watch engaging videos, swipe through image carousels, tilt to pan and explore lifestyle images with tagged products, Canvas Ads can be customized to fit the needs of any brand. Luckily, all these visual features can appear in one single ad as Canvas ads aim to bring the user into the brand story. Not only do Facebook Canvas ads help brands acquire new customers and fans, but they also help to promote product offerings and showcase a brand’s best sellers in a creative, immersive design.

All in all, these advertising solutions were designed to help Facebook users discover products and help brands to drive more awareness and sales.

IMO: In truth, I don’t use Facebook as much as other platforms, but when I do, these types of advertisements always catch my eye. By developing such an immersive experience, Facebook has created a unique way to showcase products and brands all while not disrupting the user experience on the platform; drawing people into the advertisement rather than trying to stand out.

To learn more, check out Facebook’s Advertising Help Page here.

Boasting an audience of over 200 million people, Pinterest is home to a highly-engaged user base that’s actively searching for inspiration, open to discovering new products and willing to explore new possibilities; making it the perfect playground for brands and businesses to connect with long-time loyalists and new shoppers. In fact, according to a US Pinterest audience study, 63% of Millennial Pinners say “Pinterest helps me discover new brands or products to buy,” while “86% use Pinterest to plan life moments, big and small.”

On the flip side of the equation lies Pinterest’s advertising opportunities that brands can use to promote buyable Pins. Similar to other shoppable media opportunities, shopping on Pinterest works across mobile and desktop platforms with buyable Pins displaying the price of the item in blue. If a Pinner is ready to purchase products on Pinterest, the selected buyable Pins are placed in a shopping bag with the entire checkout experience taking place within the Pinterest app for mobile shoppers or Pinterest’s site for desktop users.

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Creating buyable Pins for your brand is relatively simple, and to get started, we recommend utilizing this step-by-step process outlined on the Pinterest business platform. Once your brand is approved to share buyable pins on Pinterest, it’s said to typically take five or so days for the pins to activate. Buyable Pins are visible in the home feed, category feeds, in search results, pinner’s boards, and on the retailer’s Pinterest profile. As a retailer, Pinterest recommends saving buyable Pins to different boards beyond the auto-generated “Shop” board to increase visibility on the platform.

With plenty of brands just now recognizing the potential of Pinterest, the platform has plenty of tips and trick to getting started with buyable Pins and getting the most out of your Pinterest experience here.

IMO: Speaking from experience as an avid Pinner, the streamlined process on Pinterest makes it much easier to purchase products from a variety of brands all on one platform/site versus visiting individual brand websites to purchase products. If you’re a retailer wanting to reach a younger audience, (18-34) and not utilizing buyable Pins yet, I’d recommend taking some time to explore the platform’s advertising capabilities to see if it could be a good fit for you.

A hidden advertising gem in the Google ecosystem are the shoppable video advertising options on YouTube. As four billion videos are watched every single day and over 300 hours of video get uploaded every minute, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world and by far the most popular video sharing platform in the galaxy.

Amid the recent controversies around brand safety, YouTube will be implementing better safety measures, like increasing their content moderation and policy enforcement staff, throughout the year to simultaneously improve the platform’s experience for users, and beef up security features in order to capitalize on brands itching to advertise to the masses on YouTube.

As YouTube adjusts course to support brands in a more secure way, YouTube has even expanded its advertising options to give brands more control over video campaigns, so ads reach the right people at the right times on the platform. To do this, advertisers can choose to target people with their ads based on location, age, and interests – strengthening the targeting capabilities available to advertisers while reinforcing brand safety measures. To better meet the needs of advertisers, YouTube has built three ad formats beyond the shoppable ad format via AdWords PLAs: TrueView in-stream ads, TrueView video discovery ads, bumper ads.

Shoppable ads on YouTube are available through AdWords shopping campaigns and can be tied to YouTube if “search partners” is enabled within the AdWords account. These shopping ads are linked through AdWords, are clickable and display underneath the main video (see below).

TrueView Shopping Ads can only be run with the in-stream ad format in countries where Google Merchant Center is available, and are used to make video ads more interactive by connecting the viewers directly to the products via shopping cards layered on top of video ad. By using a brand’s existing Merchant Center feed to generate shopping cards for current products, TrueView ads are an easy way to connect viewers with the products displaying in a video advertisement.

Beyond the shoppable capabilities of YouTube ad formats, TrueView in-stream ads, video discovery ads, and 6-second bumper ads all serve different purposes, and we think are unique advertising opportunities worth diving into and understanding a bit better.

With TrueView ads on YouTube, advertisers only pay when a viewer watches or interacts with a video and can be customized to fit the needs of the brand (extending video length, showcasing customer testimonials, etc.). Even better, TrueView Video Ads can appear on YouTube and other publisher sites in the Display Network for desktop and high-end mobile devices. Two TrueView Video formats exist, in-stream ads and video discovery ads, and are recommended for different advertising needs.

YouTube recommends this ad format to be used for promoting other videos or content on YouTube or across the Google Display Network. It’s important to note that in-stream ads play before, during or after the main video and viewers have the option to skip in-stream ads after 5 seconds. And because viewers can skip the advertisement altogether, advertisers are only charged when a viewer either interacts with your video or watches 30 seconds of your video ad (or the duration if it’s shorter than 30 seconds) – whichever comes first.

Since in-stream ads are a bit more customizable than other options, the campaign goals that allow in-stream ads are,

  • Brand awareness and reach

  • Product and brand consideration (all)

  • Campaign created without a goal

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Formerly known as “TrueView in-display ads,” video discovery ads’ recommended use is to promote a video in “places of discovery, including next to related YouTube videos, as part of a YouTube search result, or on the YouTube mobile homepage.” Video discovery ads display as a thumbnail image from the video with some text – inviting users to click to watch the video.

Because video discovery ads are intended for the intention of message reinforcement, and boosting awareness, the campaign goals that allow video discovery ads are,

  • Product and brand consideration

  • Campaign created without a goal

6-second Bumper Ads

Bumper ads are a short video ad format (6 seconds or less) that can be used to help boost awareness and increase customer reach through the broadcasting of a short, memorable message. Bumper ads are similar to in-stream ads in that they play before, during or after another video, but viewers aren’t allowed to skip the ad due to its time limit. It’s also recommended by YouTube to run bumper ads alongside a TrueView campaign.

Because the ad is designed to capture viewer’s attention, advertisers pay for bumper ads based on impressions; using CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions) bidding, and furthermore, the campaign goals that allow bumper ads are,

  • Brand awareness and reach

  • Campaign created without a goal

IMO: Since YouTube is a global video-based platform that offers a variety of ad formats for advertisers, advertising on YouTube is a great way to connect with a younger audience in a more refreshing way than canvas or carousel ads on social media. Because YouTube is such a massive platform and is strengthening their product offerings to offer better brand protection, I’d recommend that advertisers have a clear understanding of their goals and strategies before activating any campaigns on the platform.

To learn more, check out YouTube’s Advertising Help Page here.

To be expected, the shoppable advertising opportunities on Snapchat are a bit different than the ad formats found on other platforms. Because there aren’t any outright shoppable features on Snapchat at the moment, plenty of opportunities to shop exist within current features, starting with “swiping up.” Beyond standard Discover Page and Snap Stories ad formats, advertising on Snapchat requires brands to get a little creative and work hard to determine how best to connect with their fans. Luckily, Snap’s latest features are viable solutions to advertising in the Snapchat space.

To remain competitive in the social landscape, Snapchat recently launched the “swipe up” feature on Stories which can link to a brand’s mobile web page or a specific product/category page. The difference between “swipe up” for Instagram and “swipe up” for Snapchat is that Snap’s feature is not exclusive to a certain account type, like on Instagram. By enabling any user, not just business accounts, to utilize the “swipe up” feature, Snapchat expands the feature beyond its shoppable capabilities and into content sharing, event promotion, etc.

Snapchat’s new context card feature allows users to have a completely new experience when using the app. By not only showing you information about the locations that are shared within a snap, context cards can also provide access to several different “shoppable options.” Some features include TripAdvisor, FourSquare, Michelin, Goop, OpenTable, Uber, and Lyft.

Through the location-based tagging, users can make reservations at restaurants, book an Uber or a Lyft to the tagged location, and go directly to the location’s website (if available).

While these aren’t opportunities that most retailers can take advantage of right now, many are anticipating new feature releases from Snapchat this year. If this is the case, be sure to check back in to learn how your brand can take advantage of any new feature releases by signing up for our newsletter at the bottom of this page.

IMO: As Facebook and Instagram rock the boat to maintain dominance in the social space, Snapchat is remaining nimble and rolling out features left and right; holding tight and fulfilling the needs of their users while sustaining the fun, creative roots of the platform. Even though easy buy-in opportunities don’t exist for every brand just yet, we recommend utilizing the “swipe up” feature and playing around with ways your brand can take advantage of Snapchat context cards.

For more information about Snapchat’s advertising features, check out the resources available here.

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With endless ways to make shopping easier, increase frequency, and connect consumers with a branded shopping/social experience, the shoppable media landscape is growing; emerging as a force to be reckoned with as digital channels merge to create a more omnichannel experience. And while some of the features seem fairly similar in design, each provides a unique experience that can be tailored to the perfect fit for your brand with advanced audience targeting, and a platform user-base worth connecting to. As more features roll-out, be sure to check back in for our take on how advertisers and brands can take advantage of new opportunities.

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