As online shoppers become increasingly savvy and adverse to retail marketing, shoppable ads can combine marketing and entertainment.

Whether it’s 1966, 2016, or 2066 – people avoid advertising but hunt for entertainment. The tools and technology change but that basic rule remains.

“Retailers are eliminating the ‘click through to website’ by putting a purchase widget right in the ad, meaning the product lands in shoppers’ baskets without leaving the original site”

Jim Dowling, HSE Cake

As for today’s trends, plenty has been written about ad-blocking software, but what’s been covered far less is the impatience and restlessness of people armed with tablets, phones, laptops and TVs.

Marketers haven’t stopped talking about creating seamless experiences. Yet, prompted by an ad, customers are still expected to open new tabs or switch apps to find the thing they like.

And that’s on top of being dragged away from whatever they were reading or watching. They could go and look for it when they’re done of course – if they remember.

If marketers want to smooth customers’ journeys from dreaming to buying, they need make those ads shoppable.

Put quite simply, retailers are eliminating the ‘click through to website’ by putting a purchase widget right in the ad, meaning the product lands in shoppers’ baskets without leaving the original site. Asda trialled this with Ben & Jerry’s in 2014.

Shoppable video

But video is where the magic happens. Picking up on the clothes that models are sashaying in or the drinks that actors are lounging with puts customer convenience at the heart of the equation.

Very's ad lets customers click to buy products featured in the music video

Very’s new shoppable advert

Very’s ad lets customers click to buy products featured in the music video

Last year, Very.co.uk created a shoppable advert starring Rizzle Kicks that allowed viewers to shop the products on screen, from T-shirts to barbeques.

Hosted on multiple platforms, the video saw a combined 2.6 million views and generated £1.4m in additional revenue. Crucially, the retailer wasn’t just preaching to the converted – 45% of sales came from first-time customers.

The video isn’t just a grab for clicks – the ad banner directing customers to shop the video brings up a selection of products while it is still playing. Shoppable ads aren’t about dragging customers away from their content experiences, they are about enhancing them.

On mobile, where a great experience with branded content and ads is an unsure thing, shoppable ads will be the future of engaging customers. Being in the moment and under the thumb (to click the product) will be the way forward for marketers who want to move from being interrupters to facilitators.

Of course, many of the same ad rules apply: content has to be engaging, the targeting effective and the product relevant.

But it can only be a matter of time before smart screens let customers fall in love with an outfit, click on it, check their size and have it in dispatched by the retailer before the credits roll.

In fact, in five years’ time I think they’re going to be really hacked off if they can’t.

  • Jim Dowling is managing director of sports and entertainment agency HSE Cake.