Shoppables are just getting started

Shoppables are evolving at a pace that would make Darwin’s head spin.

Last month, for instance, Snapchat announced it was launching a new Shoppable AR [Augmented Reality] Lens that can offer a “Buy Now” button on top of a branded Lens.

Pinterest’s Shop the Look recently expanded to offer more than 100,000 shoppable products for the home from The Home Depot. When you see a lighting fixture in the visual platform for instance, you tap a white circle on the image to see similar fixtures for sale. And Google’s Shopping Actions are helping to compress the checkout process.

In these and many other ways, retailers are reducing the sequence of screens and steps required to make a purchase into a single screen with overlays and buy buttons. As every marketer knows, more screens mean more time to reconsider if you really want those speckled socks. Single-screen purchasing also makes mobile purchasing less of a hassle. Here’s a typical shoppable sequence:

Images from Acceleration Partners

Images from Acceleration Partners

Step by step, online images and videos are becoming an impulse buyer’s dream. You see something, love it, want to have it … ah, there is a layer for finding variations in price or size, and there is an overlaid button to buy.

Given the rapid pace of development for shoppables, where is it heading? To get a sense, I asked Bob Glazer, founder of performance marketing firm Acceleration Partners in Needham, Massachusetts.

His company works with affiliate programs, so of course he saw that connection. There will be “shoppable markets,” he predicted, a new kind of affiliate where brands and retailers sell and buy opportunities for buy buttons on a range of photos.

If it’s a Brand X blue high heel shoe, for instance, the buy button link might be up for real-time auction by the retailers that carry that brand and shoe, and the button link could be purchased, in real time, by Nordstrom online instead of Macy’s online.

Shoppable images and videos are ads and e-commerce, rolled into one, leading to new kinds of combinations. Instagram, Glazer point out, has started testing shoppable ad units that combine product catalogs and video.

He envisions that virtually every product image will eventually have an identifier that connects it to inventory somewhere, displaying a buy button and related overlays only when it is in stock for the retailers who own or have successfully bid for that buy button link.

Shoppables also become a unit for new kinds of product sharing, possibly propelled by a cut of the sales that one friend gets from showing to another friend, who makes the purchase.

And, as virtual reality environments take hold on Facebook and other social platforms, overlays for making a purchase of the item shown may become typical. Glazer sees the possibility for new kinds of story-based marketing campaigns that represent the next generation of product placement inside narratives.

About The Author

Barry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Previously, he covered this space as a Senior Writer for VentureBeat, and he has written about these and other tech subjects for such publications as CMSWire and NewsFactor. He founded and led the web site/unit at PBS station Thirteen/WNET; worked as an online Senior Producer/writer for Viacom; created a successful interactive game, PLAY IT BY EAR: The First CD Game; founded and led an independent film showcase, CENTER SCREEN, based at Harvard and M.I.T.; and served over five years as a consultant to the M.I.T. Media Lab. You can find him at LinkedIn, and on Twitter at xBarryLevine.