The Merging of Retail and Entertainment Will Transform Both Industries

A streamable shopping makes the viewers into the consumers

Ecommerce has created a shoppable world where there isn't a lot of time to second guess purchase decisions. Getty Images
Headshot of Alecia Vimala

Ecommerce was once hailed as the future of retail, but at present, online retailers face growing amounts of competition due to low barriers of entry and high expectations for on-demand shopping. They are continually challenged with redefining their competitive advantage, which often means lowering prices, offering free shipping or exploring niche product markets. That is why shoppable entertainment will be the new future of retail and entertainment.

The intersection of both industries occurs when TV shows, movies and videos become the D2C vehicle to sell goods and services that viewers see while watching. When consumers see a product or service through traditional advertising, they still have to make the conscious decision to go on the ecommerce platform and search for it. When retail and entertainment meet, however, viewers simultaneously become shoppers while watching TV shows or movies. This renders the time between the buying intent and the buying act nearly instantaneous. When viewers see something on screen that they want or need, they now have the opportunity to purchase it on the spot, leaving little time for second-guessing.

Shoppable streaming and its impact

When viewers see something on screen that they want or need, they now have the opportunity to purchase it on the spot, leaving little time for second-guessing.

Integrating retail and entertainment will revolutionize both industries. While ecommerce is in full swing, brands are finding it more and more difficult to monetize their ecommerce space. Seeing a picture of a dress doesn’t tell you nearly as much as seeing the dress in action. With shoppable entertainment, brands can show how that dress looks in real life, how it moves as the character walks and how to style that dress with other accessories. By placing that dress on screen, it now has a captive audience and is not competing with hundreds of other dresses on an ecommerce site. Watching an advertisement and shopping the product becomes part of the viewing experience.

What brands should know

Brands should view (and treat) shoppable streaming companies just like any other retail partner. In other words, marketers engage in a relationship where the shoppable streaming company purchases inventory from the brand, and the network provides the platform to retail the company’s products to the public.

Once a shoppable entertainment platform gets a brand set up in the system, its products are officially in its database and therefore available for featuring on the site. In this retail-meets-entertainment scenario, smart marketers should take advantage of the ability to participate in creating original content. The marketing team may actually collaborate with the streaming platform on the storyline and how the products are displayed. Even on set, a brand marketer can be present for the streaming company’s producer to collaborate with. In essence, brand marketers have the option to become more or less a co-production partner to create the video content.

Caveats for marketers

Brands should be aware of some common mistakes their marketing team may innocently make in a shoppable streaming engagement. First, they need to be aware of who is actually retailing the product. Some companies with shoppable entertainment models will feature an affiliate program where they’ll basically embed a link on their site that sends the customer back to the brand site. That puts the burden back on the brand for that entire transaction, from the finances to stocking and shipping the inventory, and also makes them responsible for customer service.

Consequently, marketers be warned: Other players trying to enter the market may say they offer shoppable video, but what they really do is just redirect the online shopper back to the brand. With shoppable entertainment, it’s different and important to recognize the distinction. Once a brand signs the contract, the shoppable streaming company takes care of the entire brand purchase lifecycle. They pre-purchase the inventory, stock and ship the inventory and even handle complaints, refunds, etc. For the brand marketer, a true shoppable streaming company will operate as a partner that removes the burden of selling and allows them to solely focus on their product marketing.

Post-modern product placement

Shoppable streaming is like product placement 2.0. Prior to now, product placement was simply a tool to increase brand awareness that had no real impact on immediate sales. With shoppable entertainment, however, product placement becomes a tool to sell goods and services directly to the consumer on the same streaming platform. It’s placing products in entertainment content with the express intent to sell.

Of course, this new iteration of product placement presents its own challenges. The logistics and infrastructure needed to make entertainment shoppable on a nationwide or global scale means planning inventory months in advance, coordinating productions of tv shows and movies months or years in advance, complying with FTC guidelines, scaling technology to transact millions of purchases across TV, mobile or viewing devices—all while keeping the trends current. But if done right, product placement 2.0 has the potential to become one of the most lucrative and ROI generating forms of advertising that exists in media as well as a true marketing, entertainment and retail revolution.

Shoppable streamers reap dividends

This emerging business model distinctly benefits streaming platforms. Currently the streaming industry is limited to revenue models involving commercial breaks and subscriptions. The issue streaming providers face is that viewers don’t want to sit through ads, and although streaming subscriptions are a trend right now, more and more consumers are turning away from having to always pay for another streaming service to watch their favorite shows. Shoppable entertainment gives streaming providers and entertainment companies another way to monetize their content that is both more organic to the experience and less invasive for the viewer. This innovation is not really that far removed from reality. As consumers, we already shop from different platforms such as pictures and social media. The natural next step is to shop from all forms of visual media, including videos, TV shows and movies.

The same natural evolution can be applied to marketers. Similar to when brand marketers began including social media platforms in their strategy, shoppable entertainment will quickly position itself as the next step in online marketing, a more cost-effective and efficient take on product placement. At its peak, social media marketing opened a new, always growing audience to brands, many of which have since shifted their marketing spending toward social instead of traditional media, a shift that is likely to happen once again with shoppable entertainment.

Alecia Vimala is the founder and CEO of ALECIA.