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Plugging Into Interactive Video Shopping

  |  November 7, 2012   |  Comments

With the growing accessibility and reach of interactive video online, maybe the video revolution is finally here.

There is quite possibly no other subject in the video world as littered with broken dreams and fueled by overblown hype as that of interactive video shopping. Remember the days when marketers talked about the ability to purchase an outfit Jennifer Aniston wore in an episode of "Friends," right from the comfort of your living room, using a tap of your TV remote? That was 1998.

Yet interactive video shopping is far from dead; in fact, a quiet revolution has been brewing over the last several years that is again breathing life into the genre. This time, whether you're a retailer, a TV network, a DRTV brand, or just an ordinary marketer, you need to pay attention.

On the e-commerce side, brands are experimenting with everything from clickable links in YouTube videos to fully shoppable interactive videos like this one from Barneys New York. TV networks like A&E jumped into video shopping this year with a History shopping app that allowed purchasing via remote control, albeit with limited TV distribution. Even DRTV brands like Bosley Medical are jumping into the game with short, interactive videos crafted from traditional long-form infomercials, bringing the video shopping genre from TV to the web.


The use of interactive video shopping is a growing trend as retailers begin to act more like media companies and monetize their "audience" in-store and online. Best Buy is a good example of a retailer that leverages video shopping to both sell and entertain. TV networks and cable operators are also beginning to see the potential for an alternative revenue stream to traditional advertising in our DVR-happy society, though widespread adoption is hindered by lack of standards for interactive shopping across cable and satellite TV providers (among many other challenges).

For now, interactive video shopping is primarily expanding on the web. The ability to easily create video content, the desire to leverage content as a tool to convert, and the ability to leverage tools like Liveclicker (disclosure: I work there) make interactive shopping more accessible for brands looking to connect with audiences and shoppers in new ways.

So how can you be successful with interactive video shopping? I've compiled a quick best practices checklist to help you get started.

  1. Use interactive video shopping elements only when you have confidence the viewer wants to engage. Note that I didn't say when you want the viewer to engage. Shoppers and viewers don't care about what you want. Your job is to use video to motivate. Interactivity can drive the action.
  2. Use interactive video shopping only when it adds value to the viewing experience and moves a shopper closer to the transaction. Ignore the marketing hype around interactive video and instead focus on how you can use video interaction to create sales.
  3. Make interactive video brain-dead easy for the shopper. We've all grown up passively consuming video content, so simply expecting shoppers to engage just because you're using interactive video technology may not be realistic. You have to make it easy. Consider telling the shopper (in-video) that links can be clicked in the player, if there are other options available to click in the player they might find useful, such as related products, reviews and ratings, etc. Also, be careful with "hotspots" (hotspots are also commonly referred to as "clickable video"). Strong visual cues, text calls-to-action, or spoken prompts may be needed to maximize the use of hotspot technology.
  4. Measure, measure, measure. Like everything on the web, interactive video shopping can be measured. It's only through the process of experimenting and measuring that brands will learn how to effectively employ interactive video shopping techniques. In addition to measuring video click-through rate (CTR), conversion rate (CVR) of those that click, engagement, and other standard video metrics, brands need to test interactive video elements like buy buttons, text overlay placement, product thumbnails, ratings and reviews placements, and more.
  5. Choose the right interactive shopping format. Your brand values will help dictate the correct approach to interactive video shopping. For Barneys, a driving track, highly produced content, and product image overlays simultaneously inspire while creating clear prompts to buy. For Bosley Medical, the video shopping experience is a journey of discovery where men discover how and why hair restoration makes sense. For A&E, entertainment is front and center while interactive elements maintain a less prominent placement.

We are still a ways off from interactive shopping becoming universally accessible on television. Yet interactive video is growing nonetheless; both on TV and especially on the web. Time will tell if this time the revolution is for real, or whether we'll be talking about interactive TV shopping in 2020 like we were in 1998. My money is on the revolution. With the growing accessibility and reach of interactive video online, yours should be, too.


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Justin Foster

Justin Foster is an entrepreneur specialized in e-commerce and online marketing. In addition to co-founding video commerce startup Liveclicker, Justin also founded the Video Commerce Consortium, the industry's largest trade group devoted to advancing the use of video in e-commerce. Prior to Liveclicker, Justin led the services practice for WhatCounts, an email marketing technology provider, where he was responsible for client strategy and development. He also founded the Email Marketing Roundtable, an industry group that represents over 1,500 email marketers worldwide. Justin holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Pacific Lutheran University with emphasis in Information Science and Entrepreneurship and a minor in Chinese from Beijing Foreign Studies University.

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