Video advertising continues to grow quickly, but, says Rayhan Perera, advertisers need to look beyond its branding function to embrace new formats like shoppable video. 

Disrupting expectations has become the running theme of 2020, and digital video is no exception. According to eMarketer, daily averages for online video viewing now stand at two hours and 20 minutes; more than double previous growth predictions.

For brands, this popularity surge offers an obvious opportunity to expand their reach by ramping up video advertising. But, with digital video becoming such a crowded market, adding their voice to the mix will no longer be enough for brands to engage a changing consumer and drive results. Instead, with audiences consuming more video content than ever before, brands should take the opportunity to experiment with video capabilities, and test how it can work for them in newer, more innovative ways.

Tapping the true potential of video will mean looking beyond standard ad creatives to formats that make it easier for consumers to engage, explore, and buy. And interactive, ‘shoppable’ video is one such area brands should be looking at.

Shoppability: a new dawn for video

Alongside greater demand for video content, life under lockdown has brought a huge spike in e-commerce, with digital shopping rates rising by 129% week-on-week across the UK. Even as retail stores begin to re-open their doors, consumers won’t be ditching their digital habits any time soon. Indeed, recent research reveals lingering hesitance around ‘normal’ shopping activities – such as trying on clothes – and plans to visit physical stores less frequently.

Combining online video and e-commerce via shoppable ads allows brands to leverage the huge appeal of both; not least because video has an impressive track record for driving purchases. As multiple studies show, video’s power to drive conversions and attention is sizeable – with product videos alone making 85% of consumers more likely to buy.

Recently we have seen more brands move towards shoppable video, with US direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands looking to increase their use of interactive ads, and major media players ramp up their capabilities – for example, YouTube’s newest ad format. But with brands still unsure of how to properly use it, it’s important to remember that creative must provide immediate engagement and convenience if ads are to fuel tangible responses.

Keeping up with consumer needs

Historically, video has been associated with pure branding activity; used to fuel awareness and feed glory metrics. As a result, understanding of how to leverage video for direct response campaigns has remained limited; with definitions of ‘interactive video’ still confined to adding hyperlinks that lead to content owner sites.

But in an age where consumers have infinite choice and expect instant gratification, this simplistic approach doesn’t make the grade. While basic clickable ads do offer more control over brand interaction, they don’t deliver the highly-tailored experiences consumers now expect, nor a streamlined route to products that spark their interest. In other words, links that take consumers to generic homepages and lengthen the distance from inspiration to purchase make it more likely that brands will lose consumer attention, favour, and custom.

Optimising video for ad success therefore calls for a change in direction. As well as choosing placements that drive the best returns, brands must minimise and personalise the journey from video to cart.

Closing the conversion gap

Simple as it sounds, the most effective way to prevent consumer drop-off is eliminating the path to purchase entirely. By implementing tools that enable direct in-cart integration, brands can make video ads instantly shoppable and allow consumers to go straight from viewing to buying at a click.

For an example of how this works in practice, take implementation for an online fashion brand. By adding ‘shop the look’ buttons — also known as hotspots — at certain points in new collection videos, they can allow customers to open curated selections of purchasable items within the video player; meaning shoppers can find and buy the latest styles, and go back to watching the video, without the annoyance of being redirected to another site.

Of course, delivering the most engaging and profitable experiences takes more than just the adoption of shoppable ads; brands also need to select their tech wisely. In particular, they must ensure their platform features three key ingredients:

1. Versatility: Meeting consumer demand for seamless experiences depends on real-time flexibility. Shoppable videos must enable consumers to buy what they want, how they want. To achieve this, brands need tools that offer varied integrations; covering diverse e-commerce and payment platforms from Shopify to PayPal.

2. Customisation: Tech that is easy to use delivers greater value for all; consumers and brands alike. Opting for tools that enable efficient video tailoring — adapting sound, overlays, featured products, and hotspots to suit specific target audiences — will help brands ensure messages always hit the right mark.

3. Analytics: The more brands know about their target audience and how they interact with shoppable video ads, the higher they can drive performance. Choosing tools that provide ongoing campaign analysis will give brands the granular and timely insight needed to continually fine-tune ads for greater relevance, and results.

As audience appetite for online video and shopping grows, now is the time for brands to experiment with video – and going interactive is the next logical step. By embracing in-video integration, brands can create a streamlined consumer journey that not only offers inclusion and engagement for consumers, but also meets the need for instant satisfaction and real-time engagement.