Shoppable Video: Coming to a Screen Near You

Competition is fierce when it comes to ecommerce, and retailers need to stay ahead of the curve to remain competitive with today’s consumers. The relevance of video is growing as the number of platforms, services and devices available to consumers increases. This growth has lead to more interactive ways to communicate with consumers, such as an unobtrusive yet engaging option known as shoppable video.

The Rise of Video Content

The use of video content itself is nothing new; many retailers have implemented some form of it already. Studies show that viewers are anywhere from 64–85 percent more likely to buy after watching a product video.  As such, the potential to use video in new and engaging ways is huge.

Shoppable video offers a quick, direct route to purchases by providing clickable links to shop products featured throughout a video. When a consumer clicks an item of interest in the video, they’re directed to a site to learn more and potentially buy the item. The real benefit of this interactive method of shopping is that it captures consumers in the moment, which encourages impulse purchases and turns passive viewers into active consumers. This goes to the heart of what video does best—telling a story and appealing to the emotional connection a product or brand has with its customer base.

A Seamless Shopping Experience

Initially known as ‘click-to-buy’, this technology is always improving and allowing for more seamless ways to shop through video. Some brands even allow users to save the selected items in a cart to view and shop at the end of the video for an uninterrupted viewing experience. Shoppable and Shopstyle are currently working on creating universal shopping carts where users can store products from multiple retailers in one cart. The potential end goal of shoppable video is to develop a way to buy products from videos without using a cart at all.

Shoppable video provides the added bonus of allowing brands to gather specific, real-world data at a personal level. In the future, we will likely see technology that allows retailers to programmatically place products in videos based on known customer preferences and make it shoppable. When this happens, the sky’s the limit for converting customers.

Mobile Browsing

As with everything these days, when retailers look to create shoppable videos, they need to consider the importance of mobile devices. While desktop still dominates with conversion, mobile is the preferred choice for browsing and the use of mobile devices to make purchases is only growing. Thus, a seamless omnichannel experience is necessary for shoppable video to be impactful. Users expect a consistent interface and process across all platforms, and this includes video content. With over 50 percent of online time now spent on mobile, retailers need to actively engage customers on all platforms, regardless of where the final purchase is made.

An exciting media, shoppable video offers a truly engaging and interactive way for retailers to promote their brand, develop a loyal customer base, and increase conversions and sales.

Ready. Set. Scale: How we’re changing ecommerce merchandising with Natural Language Generation (NLG)

To understand why natural language generation (NLG) is on the cusp of becoming the new standard in ecommerce merchandising, you need to understand the concept of natural language.  In the simplest of terms, NLG is a form of Artificial Intelligence; a sub-field of computer science that draws raw data, interprets it, and then presents it back to us not in specs, statistics or graphs but in remarkably articulate human language.

While this in itself is extraordinary, it’s the high rate of speed and staggering volume of product data that NLG systems can process that holds tremendous potential for ecommerce merchandising. We started working on our NLG software (Kopigin: ginnie) with the goal of producing rich, enhanced product content at scale. The results have been impressive.

What Does NLG Mean for Ecommerce?

For ecommerce, the benefits of NLG are exponential. It’s the difference between onboarding 1,000 or 100,000 products in time for a critical retail period. In a highly competitive environment where brands continually compete for wallet share through richer customer experiences and channels that now include mobile, online, and social media, the ability to create and present consistent content can be make-or-break. While one would naturally expect this to impact the more visible touch-points such as branding, imagery and usability, it also trickles down to those all-important product page narratives that are intended to catch the consumer’s eye and drive conversion. The product story has become critical not only for search engines but for the buyer who’s try to determine if this “pair jeans” is perfect for them. The time and expense an organization must dedicate to producing creative content for literally thousands of items and then continually updating this content as new products launch or details changes is considerable.

This is where NLG technology holds its greatest potential.  Its ability to quickly scale up to extraordinary amounts of content including catalogues that may contain millions of SKU numbers is remarkable.  Once in the system, structured item spec data can be converted to high-quality, SEO rich content that delivers millions of unique product descriptions. The speed at which this information can be generated not only makes NLG substantially more cost effective than manual writing but it ensures the brand voice remains strong and consistent throughout.

Getting More From NLG

For NLG, the rapid production of unique content is just the beginning. This technology also offers enormous additional content production capabilities including:

•     Development of themed landing pages. This is ideal for reaching niche markets and driving SEO rankings. Whether its BMX bikes with R7 alloy frame and press-fit BB-86, or sleeveless pink summer tank tops, the level of product attributes an NLG system can be designed to draw from and reproduce as reader- and SEO-friendly content is broad.

•     Customization of individual product pages to highlight specific SKU information (such as price points, sizing, colors, special features and more). NLG not only delivers unique, creative content that speaks specifically to an item feature, but can also change the tone and style of writing for each product category.

•     Generation of customized communication tailored to the specific purchasing patterns of the individual consumer. NLG can produce a conversational message that incorporates item details without the typical “product pitch” language. It doesn’t just recommend a product, it explains in simple language, why it would be a great fit for the consumer.

As the number and rate of products onboarded in the collective “ecommerce” ecosystem grows, the need for intelligent systems that can provide high quality and natural-language content will be even more pronounced. As content experts, here at geekspeak, we’re building and piloting NLG technologies to provide a fast, high quality, and budget-friendly solution to developing high volumes of ecommerce content for our customers. We can’t wait to see what the future holds.

The Big Shift Towards DTC (Direct-to-Consumer) Selling

Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) selling in the world of retail can be a game changer for any manufacturer whose brand carries clout. For big brands such as Coach, Nike and Michael Kors, choosing DTC selling packs a lot of value as it preserves their brand integrity and allows them to control how and when their products are marketed.  For consumers, it’s all about having access to the latest styles, customized offers and superior customer service.

DTC eliminates the third-party retailer and allows manufacturers to market and sell their products directly to the consumer. Whether it’s through brick-and-mortar stores, pop-ups or on-line channels, the allure for manufacturers is the agility that comes with the DTC process and the ability to control how, when and where their brand and products are presented.

For luxury fashion leaders, Coach and Michael Kors, it gives them control over the growing concern of diminished brand integrity resulting from years of over-exposure in outlet malls and constant red tag sales offered up by leading retailers. With sports apparel giant, Nike, it was all about growing their business and recognizing the phenomenal untapped pull they had with a loyal customer base. In fact, Nike expects to grow this side of their business by 250%, to $16 billion by 2020.

Thinking about DTC selling? Here’s why it might work for you

Six reasons why brands and manufacturers should consider including DTC in their business model:

Loyalty: It creates loyalty and builds an emotional connection between the consumer and brand – not between the consumer and the retailer.

Data: Manufacturers can gather consumer sales data in real time to help inform marketing, sales, merchandising and design decisions.

Customer Experience: The ability to control the customer experience through media rich messaging, target marketing and personalized service versus having a product simply sit on the shelf of a multi-brand store.

Margins: Removing the retailer eliminates high mark-ups that lead to markdowns that erode brand credibility. Slow moving items can be discreetly removed from a website versus discounted.

Product Selection: Manufacturers can introduce an unlimited number of new products, services and special offers to their consumer without negotiating with a retailer for shelf or advertising space.

Product Releases: Brands can launch and promote premium products whenever they choose, without being hindered by a third-party retailer’s demographic.

But don’t drop your retailer just yet

While the decision to move to a DTC platform may seem like a no-brainer, for brands to win at this consumer-centric game they must have an in-depth knowledge of their customer base, develop a corporate culture that supports this style of retail and deliver both tangible and intangible benefits that are unique to their industry and exclusive to their end user.

They must also be cognizant of the fact that while DTC can be good news for the manufacturer and consumer, it’s a growing concern for retail partners who feel the pinch of diminished sales and a sense of betrayal by brands they have supported for years.

Before abandoning the traditional retail concept entirely, manufacturers and brands might benefit from better understanding what portion of their market prefer this mode of shopping and then decide if it warrants ending, maintaining or simply adjusting the partnership.