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The Future of Shoppable TV: The Grand Merchandising Merge

In the glittering world of shoppable TV, where retail empires and entertainment titans collide, a new hybrid of consumerism is emerging, poised to revolutionize how we think about vegging out in front of the tube. Forget lounging around in sweatpants, mindlessly snacking while binge-watching the latest culinary showdown. With the click of a button or scan of a QR code, you could be seamlessly whisked away into the glorious world of commercialized consumption where every product is a coveted treasure waiting to leap into your digital shopping cart.

Retail media is climbing the ranks, promising gold-lined pockets for streaming platforms that dare to turn TV into the ultimate shopping experience. Andrew Lipsman, oracle of retail media prophecy, estimates that U.S. retail media connected TV (CTV) ad spend will skyrocket to $5.63 billion by 2027. That’s a staggering figure for an industry barely out of its digital diapers.

Enter Amazon, Walmart, Disney, and NBCUniversal—the fearless forefathers of this new era, each forging their paths to get you buying stuff while binging on screen time. Amazon is charging forward, prepping to unleash a series of shoppable ad units across Prime Video and Freevee channels like a sneaky Trojan horse disguised as entertainment. While they account for only 2.8% of streaming time, their comprehensive commerce ecosystem stands ready to lure Prime viewers into shopping nirvana with the precision of a targeted missile. Will Prime’s relentless ads cause its subscriber base to dwindle? Maybe. But Jeff Bezos didn’t become Bezos by playing it safe.

Walmart, not one to be outdone, has thrown its retail gauntlet into the ring with its Add to Heart series, boasting over 330 products across TikTok, Roku, and YouTube. Partnerships like the one with NBCUniversal’s Below Deck Mediterranean on Peacock are a testament to their ambitions. QR codes during nautical hijinks let you buy that cheeky sailor hat while rooting for the crew to navigate stormy seas. With Vizio under its belt, Walmart envisions a seamless TV shopping wallet baked right into the OS, where your cravings for a new air fryer or those stretchy jeggings can be satisfied with the flick of a thumb.

But TV retail isn’t just a two-horse race. Enter Gary Mittman, the wizard of “aha moments” in shoppable content. If Amazon and Walmart are the juggernauts, then Mittman is the visionary architect of a digital utopia where commerce blends seamlessly into entertainment. His Kerv platform is a masterstroke, leveraging pixel edge recognition technology to identify those high-value moments when viewers are most likely to reach for their wallets. By weaving brand safety and contextual relevance into every click, Mittman ensures that viewers don’t just watch—they shop with intention. His strategy is as simple as it is brilliant: guide consumers down the purchase path without breaking the immersive spell of their favorite shows.

The Kerv platform aligns with some of the biggest names in the industry, including Magnite, networks, FAST channels, and streaming platforms. Magnite, the programmatic powerhouse, helps Kerv distribute shoppable tags across multiple networks, making monetization feel as easy as flipping a switch. By partnering with streaming platforms like Roku and LG Channels, Mittman ensures that his vision of contextual relevance reaches viewers wherever they tune in. FAST channels, with their free, ad-supported streaming model, are a natural fit for shoppable TV, providing viewers with quality entertainment while subtly nudging them to act on those irresistible retail impulses.

Mittman’s Kerv platform is designed to make shoppable TV a thing worth sticking around for. Gone are the days when viewers were bombarded with ads that lacked relevance or were tediously repetitive. Instead, Mittman’s pixel edge recognition technology ensures that the ads you see are not only relevant but perfectly aligned with the narrative. Watching a high-octane cooking competition? Expect to see that high-end blender used in the final round or the chef’s signature spice blend available for purchase. By creating a seamless shopping experience that respects the viewer’s attention and time, Mittman is leading the charge to make shoppable TV not just a fad but an integral part of our media landscape.

Meanwhile, Disney launched its Gateway Shop initiative, planting the seeds of the perfect, non-intrusive second-screen experience that brings your favorite characters into your living room—and your wallet. By gently nudging viewers with emails, push notifications, and QR codes while you revel in Elsa’s latest ice capade, Disney weaves its magic spell, subtly blending targeted ads into the show without breaking the enchantment.

NBCUniversal is also in on the game, offering viewers the chance to shop through Instacart during the Olympics. Imagine the thrill of watching athletes pole-vaulting their way into immortality while simultaneously stuffing your virtual cart with electrolyte drinks and compression socks. They’ll get you buying on adrenaline alone.

However, the vision is not without its challenges. Even with all this effort, shoppable TV could crumble under the weight of fragmentation if the industry doesn’t introduce it with a unified strategy. Picture it: Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Roku, and the whole motley crew, each crafting their own walled gardens like tech-savvy Rapunzels. Every platform wants a piece of the pie, but instead of baking one colossal apple cobbler that everyone can dig into, they’re busy hoarding their slice, leaving advertisers and brands to navigate a confusing labyrinth of incompatible standards. The result? A patchwork of niche ecosystems that might dazzle individually but fail to unlock the full potential of shoppable TV on a grand scale.

Take Amazon, for instance. Jeff Bezos and his band of merry merchandisers are cooking up a storm with Prime Video and Freevee, each offering seamless “shop the show” tech that can link viewers’ eyeballs to their overflowing shopping carts. But even with Amazon’s relentless focus on being your go-to platform for shoppable content, it’s still trapped in its own carefully curated domain. Prime Video’s reach is limited to Amazon’s devotees, and the company’s competitors, like Netflix and Disney+, aren’t exactly lining up to share their audiences with the Bezos empire.

Apple TV is playing its own game of retail keep-away, prioritizing the sanctity of its minimalist interface over any real attempts to integrate with third-party commerce giants. Sure, Apple Pay has the potential to transform the entire shoppable TV landscape, but convincing Tim Cook to hand over the keys to the kingdom is like asking the Pope to officiate a Vegas wedding. They’re more likely to see ad dollars slipping through their fingers before they loosen their grip on their precious walled garden.

And let’s not forget the lovable rogues at Roku. With partnerships with Best Buy, Instacart, and Kroger, Roku is eager to make TV shopping a reality. But it’s still a mad scramble as they try to marry data from 80 million accounts with their programmatic ad tech. The result is a bit like trying to duct-tape together a gourmet meal from your leftover Uber Eats orders: creative, but hardly cohesive. Even Walmart’s partnership with Roku only scratches the surface of what’s possible when streaming platforms and retail giants align their interests.

So, while shoppable TV is on the cusp of greatness, it will need more than just strategic partnerships and QR codes to become the next big thing. The industry’s biggest players will need to come together, drop their swords, and find common ground. Otherwise, shoppable TV could end up being yet another tech trend that fizzles out, buried under the weight of fragmented ecosystems and conflicting interests. Let’s hope they figure it out before the public gets bored and goes back to scrolling through TikTok to find their next must-have gadget.

YouTube, however, could be the wild card. It’s got streaming time surging and shopping-friendly content from travelogues to unboxing videos. But can Google translate this eclectic mass into the kind of retail experience that makes credit card numbers fly? Fulfillment remains an issue, and convincing other companies to team up with Google for T-commerce is a tall order.

Netflix, the problem child, accounts for a disproportionate amount of streaming time but has only begun to dabble in ads. Their obsession with clean UI means they’re unlikely to clutter their pristine app with shopping any time soon.

And TikTok, already making competitors squirm with its TikTok Shop phenomenon. Here, buying isn’t born of necessity but of whimsical “fun” shopping—a rabbit hole of impulse buys where a $15 fruit peeler becomes a must-have. But is that enough to bring TikTok’s magic to the CTV screen?

Also there is one and only Apple, the perennial wild card. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could buy stuff regardless of who sells it and where it’s advertised? With Apple Pay’s digital wallet widely distributed, it could theoretically unlock T-commerce across platforms, apps, and networks. But will Apple’s fledgling streaming service and small TV ad business get in the way?

All in all, the retail media renaissance is upon us. Whether it’s Amazon, Walmart, YouTube, or one of the other players leading the charge, we’re staring at a future where the age-old act of sitting on your couch becomes a thrilling, interactive shopping spree.

Will you embrace it? Or will you be left behind in the golden age of shoppable TV? Either way, grab your remote, your wallet, and a bag of popcorn—it’s going to be quite a show.

Pesach Lattin
Pesach Lattin
Pesach "Pace" Lattin is one of the top experts in interactive advertising, affiliate marketing. Pesach Lattin is known for his dedication to ethics in marketing, and focus on compliance and fraud in the industry, and has written numerous articles for publications from MediaPost, ClickZ, ADOTAS and his own blogs.

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