Google is allowing consumers to buy products from within YouTube ads as it sets its sights on Amazon and eBay’s ecommerce dominance.
YouTube is a mighty aggregator of eyeballs, a content monster growing by 300 hours of video every minute and by 50% a year in terms of viewer demand.
So it’s probably natural to suggest, as many very quickly have, that the addition of ecommerce links to its TrueView pre-roll ads is a direct challenge to shopping giants Amazon and eBay.
YouTube’s owner Google, master of the searchable web, is well known to be searching hard for new revenues for its video platform.
A premium, ad-free service is under development, targeting Netflix, but it is for the web’s ecommerce powerhouses that Google appears to be reserving its big guns.
Ecommerce innovation at Google
Keenly aware that the vast commercial destinations of eBay and Amazon are increasingly capable of edging traditional search out of the purchase journey, Google needs to find traction in ecommerce.
Stir in the recent news of its plans to add a ‘buy’ button to mobile search results, and the beginnings of a strategy come into focus.
How does the eBay/Amazon comparison actually stack up?
Well, Google and YouTube already play an enormous role in the online and offline retail journey, without taking much of a stake in the sale itself.
“The success of the venture will greatly hinge on YouTube’s ability to target its clients’ ecommerce-enhanced ads”
There are around a million dedicated shopping channels on YouTube, leaving no doubt that vast numbers of people are going there with clear intent to purchase. It can’t be beyond Google’s brilliant minds to find a way to tip a lot more of them over the edge.
Admittedly, where Amazon and eBay excel at reactively finding for consumers the precise items they want, YouTube’s TrueView ecommerce offering – which uses Google Shopping to supply ecommerce links for relevant products while an ad runs – at this stage looks more like a play for purchases of a more impulsive kind.
In this regard, the success of the venture will greatly hinge on YouTube’s ability to target its clients’ ecommerce-enhanced ads.
Nonetheless, for industries disinclined to play further into the powerful hands of Amazon in particular – the publishing trade and the record and home entertainment businesses, for instance – the possibility of routing sales through YouTube’s entertainment platform may well feel like an exciting one.
Beauty and homeware retailers, meanwhile, have been prominent in YouTube’s pre-launch testing.
The commercial influence of video
Some suggest, fairly credibly, that video has a hitherto underestimated role to play in ecommerce.
A recent survey from US video commerce specialist Liveclicker suggested that 73% of American adults are more likely to purchase a product or service after watching an online video about it.
With a billion video views on Facebook per day and 2.7m video views on YouTube each minute, combined with the fact that 28% of web users report having made a purchase within a social network according to figures by DigitasLBi, it seems fair to conclude there is an under-exploited connection between commerce and the social world of online video.
Whether YouTube can profitably build the necessary bridge will of course be interesting to watch.
But as the parallel mobile move indicates, Google’s ecommerce play is unfolding on a number of fronts. In time, these first moves may well represent the first passage in a significant effort to blur the worlds of ecommerce and entertainment.
- Jim Herbert, managing partner at DigitasLBi Commerce