2021 Was All About Shopability

As we close out 2021, the analyst team at Localogy is reflecting on the past year and projecting key trends and outcomes for the next. It’s an annual ritual in the analyst corps. Among the trends we’ve been tracking in our respective “beats,” one that continues to stick out is the rise of shoppability.

What is that exactly? In short, everything is shoppable. It’s the rise of buy buttons and transactional calls-to-action in everything from Instagram Stories to YouTube videos to real world items you point your phone at. The latter continues to emerge in visual search such as Google Lens and Snap Scan.

To be fair, this isn’t a new phenomenon given years of social media giants adding buy buttons to their feeds. This is a natural pairing as people like to share tastes and brand affinity, thus offering products a viral kick. And all of the above has accelerated as it piggybacks on Covid-driven eCommerce inflections.

The types of market events that embody this trend can be seen in headlines like these:

Vimeo snaps up AI video startup Wibbitz and ‘shoppable’ video tech maker Wirewax

Google adds new ways to shop, like turning a website’s photos into shoppable products

Walmart to host Twitter’s first shoppable livestream in quest to conquer social commerce

To further illustrate this trend, we’ve decided to take a deeper dive on three representative examples from Big Tech. These include market events we’ve separately covered on Localogy Insider, but are resurfacing them together in one place to connect the dots and illustrate the trend. Here they are…

Instagram Doubles Down on Shopping

YouTube

YouTube continues to elevate its status as a place where shopping is done. The company announced recently that it’s expanding its existing video action campaigns to connected TVs. For those unfamiliar, this is one of Google’s interactive video ad types on YouTube desktop and mobile.

Specifically, the feature lets users click in-video links to go to a shopping page on a brand or advertiser’s website. The CTV expansion now brings this functionality to the living room for better “lean back” interactivity. Google will do this by working with connected TV interfaces such as Apple TV.

The timing and relevance of this move are underscored by the growth in CTV viewers, a category that has inflected over the past 18 months. YouTube reports that 120 million people stream YouTube on their TVs monthly. And 90 percent of conversions aren’t reachable on mobile and desktop.

Following these moves, YouTube announced that it’s expanding its program for live shopping. This gives merchants a QVC-like format to stream product demos. It rolled this out last month through a week-long event called “YouTube Holiday Stream and Shop.” We’ll keep an eye on where it goes next.

YouTube Lowers Barriers for SMB Video Creation

Pinterest

Pinterest recently rolled out the ability for merchants to automatically create videos from the products they’ve already displayed on their accounts. This creates a slideshow that taps into the demand around videos and stories-based formats in social feeds. The videos also link to check-out pages.

Pinterest creators can also now tag brands or products in their pins. This creates an insular affiliate marketing program within Pinterest: brands can be alerted to these tags and then amplify them. The same pins can also be converted into ads on the fly, known as Idea Ads with Paid Partnership.

The opportunity, according to Pinterest, is to reach high-intent users who are in product discovery mode. Moreover, the company reports that 97 percent of the billions of monthly Pinterest searches are non-branded. This means brands can influence decisions before consumers make up their minds.

Next up for Pinterest is “native checkout,” which compresses the purchase funnel to an even greater degree. The company currently links to merchants’ own pages for most transactions. But, like Instagram, it will increasingly host transactions on its own pages to reduce shopping friction.

Pinterest Accelerates Path to Direct Commerce

TikTok 

The wild card in social media is TikTok. Now that its geopolitical uncertainties have mostly settled, the questions shift to how its discovery-based use case translates to effective ad formats. Much like Instagram and Snap, those formats will follow and blend with TikTok’s organic fare.

And the wheels are already turning, as TikTok reports the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag — applied when users boast TikTok-inspired purchases — has grown to 4.6 billion cumulative uses. TikTok users are also 1.7 times more likely to purchase products through its app shopping features.

Moreover, TikTok has met the moment with a steady string of shopping features and integrations. For example, its partnership with Shopify bakes TikTok’s ad creation and distribution workflow directly into Shopify. The latter’s merchants can access these tools in its familiar dashboard.

This followed the previous release of TikTok Shopping. This lets Shopify merchants that have a TikTok For Business account add a ‘Shopping’ tab to their TikTok profiles. That in turn lets them sync product catalogs and create mini storefronts on TikTok. It’s a quick way to get up and running.

All of these integrations are about creating a one-stop so merchants can sell their wares on TikTok with less friction. They are also about giving consumers a place to discover, transact, and check out – all without leaving TikTok. Altogether, it’s clear that TikTok is launching an all-out shopping blitz.

Looking forward, TikTok has announced that other integrations are coming, including a shopping API. This will bring many of the above integrations to a wider range of companies. In other words, partnerships won’t be needed for various services to plug into TikTok. Just grab the API and go…

Place Rewind: ‘Creative is King’ on TikTok

Looking Forward

So, there you have it — three formidable players have raised their shopping game. What’s next? We predict more such activity across the board, including at Facebook, Snap, and Instagram. But the wild card in all of this is TikTok, as it’s earliest in its lifecycle and growing the fastest. Expect more in 2022.

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