YouTube Helps Retailers Embrace Shoppable Video

Juicy Couture, Asos Want You to Buy Stuff While You Watch Videos

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For retailers looking to close the loop between video views and sales, Google's YouTube is making its content shoppable.

YouTube's external annotations technology is currently in beta but that hasn't stopped enterprising fashion brands like Juicy Couture and Asos from using it to create shoppable videos. So-called shoppable videos have been around a while, but as execs from YouTube and Juicy both admit, it's been a bit clunky. In some versions, related products scroll alongside the video, but actually purchasing the product required a number of clicks.

"To date [shoppable video] has been pretty choppy," said Lisa Green, head of industry apparel at Google. "It exists, but we haven't seen a strong technology behind them. It's not the best user experience."

Michelle Ryan, VP-global digital and social strategy at Juicy Couture, echoed that sentiment, saying that while the brand has experimented with "shoppable video 1.0 disturbed the flow of video and the story line."

The new Juicy video, launching today, alerts viewers to items for purchase by showing a muted box over the item. When the box is clicked, a new web page featuring that item opens. The video pauses when that happens, allowing the viewer to browse the shopping page.

Likewise, Asos also uses muted boxes, though those boxes are sized to only appear over the available item, while the Juicy video features one large box throughout.

While it's a logical fit for retailers, Ms. Green also envisions it could be useful for car dealers, for example, who want to showcase new models and then link out to more detailed information on, say, a stereo system.

"The idea [with the technology] is to help people, advertisers in particular, drive from YouTube to an actual site," Ms. Green said. "It makes it more actionable and specific. ... It's about being able to take advantage of that magic moment when you're watching [a video] and want to buy it."

At this point, YouTube is offering the technology up for free. But the video site is benefiting from brands like Juicy which are purchasing ads on YouTube to promote the shoppable video.

According to YouTube, four in 10 shoppers visited a store in person or online as a direct result of watching a video. In addition, 34% of apparel shoppers said they were more likely to make a purchase after viewing an online video.

Major retailers like Target have been investing in shoppable video, with chief marketer Jeff Jones saying he believes that 's the future of video for retailers. That brand launched "Falling For You," a shoppable celebrity-driven branded-content film this fall.

Juicy is putting plenty of muscle behind the ad, with plans for social-media promotion using the hashtag #GiveMeWhatIWant, as well as in-stream ads for the video. The brand's digital and social-media budget is up 35% year over year, and digital and social media account for half of the overall holiday budget. Ms. Ryan said the brand will closely watch sales resulting from the video, as well as how long consumers stay engaged.

"We're confident in the technology," Ms. Ryan said. "And in looking where the consumer is going and how she's consuming content, with our target being the 20-something, this is where she is and where we need to be."

The video features supermodel Candice Swanepoel falling asleep poolside and then a dream sequence set in Los Angeles' Chateau Marmont. Famed photographer Terry Richardson makes an appearance in her dream -- he also directs the video -- and the pair drive off in a Mercedes with a backseat full of Juicy shopping bags. Juicy handles creative internally.

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