As more marketers create their own editorial and video content in order to capture attention online, they're seeking more ways to persuade consumers to go from just reading and watching their ads to buying their products.
Recently, several online platforms unveiled shoppable ad links in order to facilitate the purchasing process. With one simple click, consumers can go from viewing a product to an ad to having it shipped to their homes.
Social media site Pinterest released "buyable pins" in early June, a way for users to securely purchase sponsored items they "pin" on their pages. Meanwhile, Instagram announced that they will begin testing direct-response options that will let users buy products, sign up for emails or download apps straight from the social network.
"This shortens the distance between you viewing and you making the purchase," said Scott Strawn, research director for the global market intelligence firm International Data Corporation. "From a seller's point of view, if users have to go through additional layers, people tend to drop off. This is a matter of efficiency to make it as easy as possible for someone who wants to buy something."
For example, Visa Checkout and Williams-Sonoma, in a partnership with multi-channel food network Tastemade, recently released an online video series called Time to Savor Summer. While the YouTube videos seem like a regular cooking show, it uses the streaming video platform's new ad offering "TrueView in-stream." Viewers who click on the information button inside the video can see the Williams-Sonoma products featured in the clip. They then can click on the items and use Visa Checkout to purchase the cookware.
"There's definitely a tighter intersection between browsing and shopping," said Visa chief brand and innovation marketing officer Chris Curtin. "Nowadays, some of the best brands out there are the ones who ultimately make each other kind of invisible to another. It's about creating an elegant and rewarding experience."
Curtin believes the shoppable ads, especially when they are married with interesting content, are more effective. He said users who want recipes are seeking out the videos, instead of the brand trying to get their attention.
"I don't know if they are ads, in the way that advertisement has been defined as you are paying for someone's attention," Curtin explained. "(With these), you're not trying to force your way into someone's thinking. You're trying to earn your way into their thinking effectively by developing your relationship through content."
Besides making the consumer happier, shoppable links provide another boon for marketers: Direct results from their ad campaigns. Gene Alvarez, managing vice president at advisory firm Gartner Inc., said that shoppable links will allow retailers to see which of their online ads are directly getting people to buy, instead of guessing which ones lead consumers into a store.
"As these social networks continue to look for the monetization route, they are getting pushback from sellers who are asking, 'What do I get for my spend?,' " Alvarez said.
It may seem like a good deal for consumers and brands, but Alvarez said there's a couple of glaring issues including security. He pointed out it's unclear who the onus of protecting users' credit card information lands on, whether it's the social network, the retailer or the financial company facilitating the purchase.
In addition, users may get sick of everything being an ad on their favorite social network and leave the platform.
"We're going to see the buy button in many places before we see button fatigue," he said. "But as we know, all things on the Internet move quickly."
Sucharita Mulpuru, vice president and principle analyst at technology and market research company Forrester, said that on most social networks, it is the user who selects what content they want to post—and the majority of these items because they are user-submitted won't be "buyable." Also, most consumers like to compare similar products and purchase the cheapest item, and shoppable links will only lead to one product.
"Google Search works because if I type in something like "black v-neck tee" I get 50 search results," Mulpuru poinst out. "Not just one suggestion. These solutions from Pinterest and Instagram, I think, are going to have one suggestion. That will limit their upside and conversion rate."