Asos’s recent launch of its #asseenonme initiative is the precursor of a change in how the retail sector perceives advertising.

It’ll be cold comfort to Asos right now, coming off the back of a third-quarter profit warning, but its recent launch of #asseenonme is the precursor of a change in how retail perceives advertising.

The #asseenonme initiative takes TKMaxx’s Me by Me TV ad concept one step further to create a social solution that drives sales.

It gives the online retailer’s customers the opportunity to share pictures of themselves wearing items bought from Asos. Anybody searching the hashtag can buy what they see, because Asos ensures every image is linked to the relevant product pages.

Asos has cleverly made this customer-generated social content shoppable.

Indeed, shoppable ads are the latest manifestation of how the retail experience is being transformed by technology.

We know that mobile devices and big data mean that retail is now everywhere, instant and increasingly personal. Total retail, omnichannel – call it what you will, the phraseology is shorthand for our understanding that people don’t care about channels, they just want to be able to move seamlessly between platforms, media, devices and environments to achieve their shopping mission. In fact some of us have stopped using the word channel all together.

“Soon we’ll expect to be able to buy any image we click on – and be frustrated if we can’t”

Simon Hathaway, Cheil

This convergence is also happening in advertising. People don’t care about media. They also want to be able to move between channels as they manage their relationships with brands.

That’s meant that some smart brand owners have stopped budgeting by media and marketing discipline and started allocating their marketing money by business challenges.

To be commercially successful in this new world of converged channels and media, retailers and their advertisers must inspire three human behaviours: searching, shopping and sharing.

During the Super Bowl this year H&M ran a TV spot featuring David Beckham promoting the ‘real’ footballer’s range of underwear. Beforehand it had run a social campaign to get the US sharing its views by voting on the state of undress David would find himself in at the end of the spot, a tactic now widely used by advertisers. No surprise, it was naked.

But perhaps more intriguing was that viewers with certain models of Samsung smart TVs could buy the Beckham underwear immediately through their TV. This was a shoppable ad.

Technology is resetting expectations of retail and transforming shopping behaviour. We are getting used to being able to click on a product image and go into the buying process. Soon we’ll expect to be able to buy any image we click on – and be frustrated if we can’t.

In turn, retail will need to be a single application programming interface that can plug into every ad, image, film, tweet or post, because people will expect everything to be shoppable. The consequence is further convergence of retail channels, and advertising.

So next time you are sitting in a presentation from your ad agency, don’t forget to ask: “Is it shoppable?”

Simon Hathaway is president and global head of retail experience at Cheil