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Press P(l)ay: YouTube enters social commerce

The world of social commerce welcomes yet another player: YouTube. Find out the opportunities and threats this may bring for your brand.

Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have come a long way since their original creation. What started as a way to keep in touch with old and new friends quickly became one of the biggest business opportunities of our century.

Companies small and large have discovered a highly scalable and extremely cost-effective way to interact with their target audience. And even that is evolving: with the help of social commerce, social media platforms can become competitors of e-Commerce giants like Amazon & Co.

What is social commerce

As the name suggests, “social commerce uses networking websites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as vehicles to promote and sell products and services.”

Since businesses have already been present on social media platforms, the inception of social commerce made sense because it made the process of shopping easier and seamless. After watching an ad or a brand page on a social media platform, consumers interested in the product are much more likely to make a purchase on the spur of the moment, provided they can do it easily and without hassle.

Visualisation of the growth of social commerce
Visualisation of the growth of social commerce

And what’s easier than clicking on a button within the platform they’re currently browsing, rather than visiting a separate brand page on the internet or looking up the product on Amazon.

No wonder that social commerce is on the rise. Currently valued at 117.4 billion USD, social commerce is predicted to skyrocket to a global value of 604.5 billion USD by 2027.

Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest are the biggest platforms behind this growth, but others like Twitter, Snapchat and TikTok aren’t far behind. Not to mention YouTube.

YouTube in social commerce

Video-sharing giant YouTube has announced the launch of its own shopping features. It was high time; after all, live-stream shopping via video is already becoming a thing and the mother of all video-sharing sites, YouTube won’t be able to miss out on this trend without serious repercussions.

The features currently in beta-testing phase will allow shoppers to click on a shopping cart icon embedded in the video which will take them through the process of purchasing - without ever leaving the platform. As the case with other social networks, this feature will allow a more seamless and easier shopping experience. This testing phase is currently only available to select users in the US, but if it becomes successful, a wider rollout across other countries can’t be far away.

Commerce on YouTube so far

Although direct purchasing features haven’t been available so far, we can’t say that YouTube is entirely new to the world of commerce. The platform boasts over 2 billion monthly users who (put together), watch more than a billion hours of videos every day. This translates to 41 minutes per person.

Visualisation of facts about YouTube
Visualisation of facts about YouTube

Whether by coincidence or not, the platform’s algorithm is already perfect for social commerce and advertising. Based on a user’s previously watched videos, YouTube suggests new videos to keep users engaged. (And unless you disable autoplay, those new videos will even start playing themselves without you lifting a finger.)

This translates very well to commerce, since recommending similar or complementary products is a highly effective advertising strategy that can seriously boost sales.

Social media influencers are also in their element on YouTube. Unboxing videos, DIY how-to shows and product tutorials are highly popular with viewers, among many other types of video that helped create a new generation of YouTube celebrities and influencers.

Screenshot of a DIY craft video on YouTube
Screenshot of a DIY craft video on YouTube

No wonder that YouTube has already been highly popular with advertisers. In fact, the company earned 6.01 billion USD in advertising revenue in the first quarter of 2021, which constitutes a growth rate of 49% from the same quarter in 2020.

These figures are not surprising if we look at advertising trends in recent years. Videos have been steadily growing in popularity, which makes them a highly effective advertising tool. In addition, unboxing videos and tutorials have an added layer of hands-on experience and interactivity for the consumer that no static ad can compete with.

The same goes for influencers. According to a recent study, 61% of consumers are more likely to trust the word of an influencer than that of a brand when it comes to information about a new product or service. This is probably because an influencer is seen as an impartial observer, “one of us,” whereas a brand is always self-serving when advertising its own products.

In short: Videos + influencers = success. It’s easy to see why YouTube has a lot going for it.

Just Google it

As YouTube sharpens its online shopping features, so does its parent company, Google. The search engine giant has recently outlined its plan to “democratize online shopping”, which includes features like free listing of sellers on Google Shopping and a deepened partnership with Shopify. (Depending on your mood today, you can view this either as a helping hand to small businesses or a declaration of war on Amazon.)

What started out as Froogle in 2002, Google Shopping is essentially a price comparison platform and an aggregate of listings offered by various sellers. The ranking of products is determined by the relevance of search terms and other data.

Screenshot of Google Shopping homepage
Screenshot of Google Shopping homepage

The platform offers an extensive category of products, including electronics, home decor, kitchen, toys, footwear, fashion and books. Applying Google’s powerful search engine to shopping, brands and sellers have a great chance to be seen and connect with potential customers.

Since about 36% of product searches already originate from Google, it may make sense for brands to appear on Google Shopping to reach more consumers. But it’s also useful for brand protection experts: we at globaleyez often check the platform for fraudulent sellers and price erosions created by grey markets.

YouTube Shopping: opportunities and threats for brands

Choosing a new sales channel is a difficult task for any brand. Asking questions like “Does it fit your image?” or “What’s the ROI?” is important to determine if the platform (in this case, YouTube) is the right fit for your brand.

If you decide to go for it, you need to devise a separate marketing strategy for this channel. What works on Facebook may not work on YouTube, and so on. Learn everything about the specifics of the platform to create the best campaigns that fit the platform, your target audience, and your brand’s image. For example, although YouTube has accommodated short videos á la TikTok, the platform’s users don’t mind watching longer unboxing or how-to videos.

Advantages

The pros for selling on YouTube are numerous. As mentioned earlier, videos are highly effective marketing tools and YouTube is the best-known video sharing platform out there. The long-time format helps deepen your customers’ knowledge about your products, and creates a great opportunity for interactivity.

YouTube can help you build an online relationship with your customers and bring your brand closer to them. Valuable content like tutorials strengthens your standing as an expert in the field and helps your customers better understand the products.

Drawbacks

Unfortunately, the drawbacks are numerous as well. And they can find you even if you opt for not selling on YouTube. Because the ease of use and the large audience lure fraudsters to the platform as well, who may start advertising and selling counterfeited and grey market versions of your product without your consent and knowledge.

We’ve already seen influencers who openly promote fake products online. This causes serious damage for brands and consumers alike. Is YouTube able to detect and solve such issues?

The platform does have a copyright protection policy, but how they will enforce it in the framework of the new shopping feature remains to be seen. And, whether that policy will even stop fraudsters from promoting fake products is another question.

Conclusion

If we look at the trends, one thing is clear: social commerce is here to stay. But in order to make the most of the opportunities it provides, brands can’t ignore the threats that this type of commerce poses.

Without proper brand protection, social commerce can be a hotbed for copyright infringements, counterfeiting, grey marketing, and many other issues that can cause serious damage to brands.

If you want to avoid that, reach out to us and find out how our extensive, highly scalable and individually tailored services can help your brand thrive in social commerce and any other sales environment.

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