At the beginning of the decade, affiliate networks revolutionized how bloggers made money. The concept was simple, taking the idea of a retail worker’s commission and translating it for the digital age: When a blogger linked to a product in a post and a follower clicked on the link to buy it, the blogger would get a small cut of the sale—usually in the 5-10 percent range, depending on the influencer and the brand.
Years later, it’s easier than ever for influencers to monetize their content. ShopStyle, which owns both the consumer-facing fashion search engine platform and the influencer network ShopStyle Collective, is rolling out three new updates today that will not only help influencers, but make it easier for consumers to shop as well.
The three updates are YouTube Video Looks, the ability to “favorite” an item directly on an influencer’s website and the creation of influencer-inspired trend pages on ShopStyle.com.
The “favorite” button, a popular feature on ShopStyle’s own search engine, will appear on the widgets bloggers embed on their websites, letting readers receive sale updates on those websites about products. The trend pages will curate influencer content for ShopStyle.com visitors, giving influencers a new way to reach readers and connect with new ones.
But arguably the most impactful of the updates is YouTube Looks, which use the YouTube Cards feature available via the website’s partnerships division, allowing users to link to products within videos, rather than including a link in the video’s description box, as they’ve typically had to do in the past.
Brent Locks, general manager of ShopStyle, said this feature provides an easier native shoppable experience than YouTubers have previously had at their disposal.
“Especially on your phone, you’re not tapping and going to the description to shop as you’re viewing it,” he said. “With this, you can just tap one thing and land at that video shop page on ShopStyle that they fully control and be able to shop all the products there.”
The Cards feature pops up on the side of a video and informs viewers that “everything in this video is available for purchase here.” When viewers click on the box, they’re taken to the influencer’s ShopStyle video page, where product photos and links for each item in the video are available.
“Typically, with YouTube, it’s an actual link, and you have to link to go learn more about the product,” said Alison Stiefel, ShopStyle’s vp of marketing. “With ShopStyle, you actually get to see the physical product and learn more right there in that experience, which should help increase clickthrough rates and impressions.”
Many of ShopStyle’s recent efforts have been catered toward making monetization and affiliate linking easier for bloggers, the rationale being that it’s one of the few platforms influencers can entirely own (as opposed to an Instagram account, for instance, which is subject to unpredictable algorithm changes). But Locks said creating an easier way for YouTubers to monetize their videos was a top priority.
“We’ve been thinking about shoppable video for a long time, and that was the piece we had to figure out,” Locks said of building YouTube Looks. “Once we were able to figure out how to build something that works natively in YouTube and offer the influencers this bloglike experience that’s all their own is what really connected it.”