Will YouTube Viewers Click ‘Shop’ Instead of ‘Skip’ on Pre-Roll Ads?

Wayfair digital sales leap while testing new feature

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Google wants to see if viewers will shop instead of skipping retailers' pre-roll ads on YouTube.

The digital video giant today announced that its TrueView ad product will now come with an optional "click to shop" button on pre-roll spots. The new button will often appear adjacent to the "Skip" button that YouTube fans know very well.

A few brands have been testing the ads, which allow viewers to click through to e-commerce pages and add items to their shopping carts. Per Google, home goods merchant Wayfair has been getting three times the digital revenue compared to previous YouTube campaigns, while the cosmetics retailer Sephora saw more than an 80 percent jump in brand consideration and a 54 percent lift in ad recall.

"The overlay puts customers in more of a shopping mindset, and they are more likely to come to our website and buy," Ben Young, Wayfair's media manager for TV and online video, told The Wall Street Journal.

The move for Google is designed to shift YouTube's ad business into a higher gear as the site faces increased digital video competition—chiefly from Facebook, although Snapchat, Kik and other mobile startups also pose a threat. Jonathan Opdyke, CEO of HookLogic, predicted the feature would be a hit with merchant brands.

"One upshot of the new buy button could be more direct connection from the retailers' own videos directly to their products," Opdyke explained. "In another case, if YouTube is now allowing retailers to associate their ads to third party content—for example a company that posts video reviews of products—it could provide a new way of intersecting shoppers in research mode."

Sridhar Ramaswamy, svp of ads and commerce at Google, revealed the new feature while speaking earlier this afternoon at the ad:tech conference in San Francisco.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.