Millions of eyes lock onto screens with their browser open on YouTube each and every day.
Among these viewers are those watching product reviews, looking for detailed descriptions of the latest gadgets, toys, beauty products… you name it.
After they’ve watched the video, they open up a new tab (or close their laptop and head out to the shops) to buy that very product.
A lot of the time this person will either go on the brand website of the product or head over to Amazon.
Well, now YouTube wants those users to stick to their own site and be able to provide them with the ability to purchase products directly through YouTube.
“We’re making their jobs harder,” said David Katz, YouTube’s VP for shopping. “YouTube has an enormous shopping opportunity.”
Last week, from November 15 to 22, YouTube hosted a livestream event called Holiday Stream and Shop, where a number of social media influencers sold their own merch as well as brand name products – directly on the video sharing platform.
In the next couple of weeks, those able to hawk goods on YouTube will be expanded, as part of the platform’s push to transform into a shopping destination.
It’s been an idea floating around the offices of Google (the owner of YouTube) for a few years, yet the pandemic accelerated the idea towards top priority as ecommerce surged.
David was actually brought in during the summer to lead a new division focused on the shopping experience.
Despite Americans being used to buying products showcased on cable network shows such as QVC for decades, attempts to replicate that online have often failed.
Yet renewed efforts over the last couple of years, built on the success of livestream shopping in China, have fared better with the blending of ecommerce and social media.
Social media commerce in China is set to reach $352 billion in 2021 – that’s 10 times the size of social media commerce in the US.
With Holiday Stream and Shop, YouTube is hoping to bandwagon on the sustained success of livestream commerce.
Yet YouTube is not alone.
The video sharing platform’s rivals – Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok – have also been moving in the same direction, building out livestream shopping capabilities.
One of the main advantages that YouTube has over its rivals is that it’s owned by Google, and thus has access to its online retail operation. So, it can rest on its ecommerce system to connect with merchants and delivery systems.
Another advantage YouTube has is that many influencers have built their reputations on the platform, and so can trust them to sell their merch directly on YouTube.
For example, take the case of Patrick Starr. His YouTube channel has more than 4 million subscribers. Patrick posts beauty tutorials and has been making money through links in video descriptions that go to product pages on other sites.
He got so popular that he started his own line of products, called One/Size.
“It was jumping through hoops for consumers to go to a separate website,” said Patrick. Now, he will be able to embed shopping links in his videos and recently tested the live shopping feature.
“We have these creators who are so knowledgeable and passionate, but they’re also interpersonal and real,” said Dolan, the managing director for YouTube shopping. “All of that is missing on some larger platforms out there.”
In the beginning, YouTube will limit its shoppable capabilities to beauty items and tech companies and will only be available for physical goods.