YouTube today gave advertisers a sneak peek at its plans to make its video platform more shoppable. The company will soon be introducing a new interactive feature aimed at advertisers called brand extensions, which will allow YouTube viewers to learn more about a product they see on the screen with a click of a button.
The new ad format will allow the advertiser to highlight their website link or call-to-action in their connected TV video ad. The viewer can then click the option “send to phone,” which sends that promotion or URL directly to their mobile device without interrupting their viewing experience.
The consumer could then shop the website from the mobile device as they would typically — browsing products, adding items to the cart, and completing the transaction. But they can do it when they’re ready to engage with that product information, instead of having to stop their video from doing so.
The advertisers will also smartly target the ads to the correct audience based on the video content. For example, a fitness video may feature a brand extension ad that shows a new pair of running shoes.
Advertisers will measure the conversions generated by these brand extensions directly in Google Ads, YouTube says. In a related e-commerce ad effort, brands can now also add browsable product images to their direct response video ads to encourage interested shoppers to click to visit their website or app.
These are only a few of the efforts YouTube has been working on to expand further into e-commerce. Today, consumers, particularly younger Gen Z users, like to watch videos and engage. At the same time, they shop, leading to the emergence of numerous video shopping services — like Popshop Live, NTWRK, ShopShops, TalkShopLive, Bambuser, and others. Facebook has also invested in live shopping and video-based shopping across both Facebook and Instagram.
Meanwhile, TikTok had become a home to video-based e-commerce, with Walmart (which also tried to acquire a stake in the app when Trump was trying to force a sale) hosting multiple shopping live streams in recent months. TikTok also found success with e-commerce as it has rolled out more tools to direct video viewers to websites through integrated links and integrations with Shopify, for example.
But YouTube still has a sizable potential audience for video shopping, as it represents 40% of watch time of all ad-supported streaming services, per Comscore data. And of the top five streaming services in the U.S. that account for 80% of the connected TV market, only two are ad-supported, YouTube noted. Ads are only one way YouTube will drive e-commerce traffic. Creators will also play a role.
This past fall, a report from Bloomberg said YouTube was asking creators to tag and track the products they were featuring in their clips. In February, YouTube later revealed more about this effort, saying it was beta testing a shopping experience that lets viewers shop from their favorite creators and that this would roll out more broadly in 2021.
Brand extensions are separate from that effort, however, as they’re focused on giving the advertiser their own means to drive a shopping experience from a video. YouTube says the new brand extensions ads are only the first of more interactive features the company has in store. The feature will roll out globally later this year.