The steady convergence of commerce and storytelling is driving the creation of a new advertising opportunity, writes Alex Brownsell.

Marketers have been redeploying ad budgets to reach consumers at shoppable moments for some time. The pandemic has only accelerated this trend.

This shift to shoppability has benefitted e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Alibaba, as well as omnichannel retailers such as Walmart and Kroger, which are building powerful media businesses.

Not to be left behind, social and video platforms including Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and TikTok are looking to China for inspiration and hastily assembling their own ‘shoppable’ ad formats, enabling users to instigate and, increasingly, complete purchases without leaving the content they are consuming.

In the WARC Guide to Shoppable Media, we outline the key drivers behind this trend, explain what it means for marketers, highlight the latest best practice from pioneering brands, and share our predictions for the future of shoppable media.

Crunching the purchase funnel

Shoppable content is able to fulfil two objectives at the same time: building brand and driving sales. This effectively shortens the funnel, by converting awareness and interest into direct sales all in the same interaction and demands a fresh approach to media planning, according to Jin Kim, CEO of US-based Creative Digital Agency.

Brands must also ensure their tech stacks are optimised to capitalise on the shoppable media opportunity. As Wavemaker’s Global Head of E-commerce Mudit Jaju describes, creating a fresh tech stack for each e-commerce outlet is hugely inefficient. Instead, companies should explore ways to make their e-commerce infrastructure more flexible.

Unlike their Chinese counterparts, most Western platforms lack integrated payment and fulfilment solutions to complete purchases. Until this situation changes, marketing teams must work closely with partners to ensure the customer journey is as smooth as possible – even if that means creating a ‘fake’ sense of seamlessness, writes Mindshare’s Yulia Livne.

Potential drawbacks

While the integration of commerce with social content promises to dramatically shorten the consumer path to purchase, shoppable media is not without potential drawbacks.

It requires additional operational efforts to keep prices, product info and stock synchronised, and assets need to be designed for every shoppable media platform. Furthermore, according to Isobar Commerce’s Patrick Deloy and Nathan Petralia, brands risk losing valuable data to the platforms on which the sale takes place.

Another potential ‘frenemy’ in this space are social media influencers and KOLs, which are particularly vital as hosts of livestream content. Kaho Yamada of AnyMind Group explains that many influencers are taking advantage of shoppable media formats to launch their own DTC brands and product ranges. This threatens to create a more ambiguous relationship between advertisers and influencers.

Into the future

Maria Bain, iCrossing UK Strategy and Insight Director believes the next generation of shoppable media will be more immersive. The adoption of 5G mobile networks and growing acceptance of augmented reality technologies will help brands to overcome one of their biggest challenges in e-commerce – that customers cannot try on or experience products before buying them.

Other media channels will become more shoppable, too. Broadcasters like NBCUniversal are using QR codes to help advertisers to attribute sales to exposure through TV media – and iProspect’s Nate Shurilla suggests the revival of QR codes may help media owners in print and OOH, too. The interactive potential of digital audio and voice-activated media is also ripe for exploration, argues Flora Williams, Executive Business Director at OMD.

Meanwhile, as media owners continue to develop their own commerce abilities, retailers are pressing on with plans to win share of digital advertising budgets. With the cookie on its way out and IDFA promising a decline in third-party data, retailers have a chance to exponentially grow their media offering, writes Flywheel Digital co-founder Patrick Miller.

Click here to read the WARC Guide to Shoppable Media.