The face of online retail is changing. New innovations and technological advances are bridging the gap between two industries that are rarely mixed; video streaming end e-commerce. We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Alecia Vimala, Founder and CEO of the first-ever “shoppable” streaming platform ALECIA, to discuss how the video-commerce business model will impact marketers.
Q: What is shoppable entertainment?
Shoppable entertainment is a web-based video platform that integrates both retail and entertainment components. It creates an opportunity for consumers to watch a video and purchase items shown on the screen. With shoppable content allowing viewers to buy what they see on that screen, without ever leaving the video, shoppable streaming is set to revolutionize how we “watch and shop.” Streaming networks will offer fully shoppable videos of both original and exclusive licensed shows.
Q: How did the idea for shoppable entertainment come to you?
I am an entrepreneur at heart and like to find solutions to problems that others haven’t tried to tackle, or that are “too out there.” I have been consulting for the entertainment industry for 10 years, and could see first-hand the disconnect between brands and the big and small screens. At the time, there was simply no ways for brands to get concrete return on their product placements that are by definition very expensive. But with technology advancing everyday, why should we not try to bridge that gap? And that’s what I decided to do.
Q: Which industries do you think shoppable entertainment will have an impact on and how?
Shoppable entertainment lives in the gap between retail and entertainment. Consumers go to the web to shop more and more—with e-commerce being the favored way to shop for most—and to watch TV as OTT services further gain in popularity. By making video content, that people are already watching, shoppable, we merge two giant industries. Perhaps the perfect matchup for advertising.
Q: With e-commerce being the retail norm, do you think brands are finding it harder to monetize their e-shops and answer consumers’ needs?
Yes. Scrolling through a page filled with images or stop-motion animations of clothing items is not the same as literally watching that same item of clothing worn by a character or host in a show. By linking the item to a visual and contextual use, the dress, shoe, watch or even rolling pin is not competing with other hundreds of items on an e-commerce site. Shopping simply becomes part of the viewing experience, where the content becomes the advertisement.
Q: You describe shoppable streaming as the “natural next step” for the e-commerce industry—why is that?
E-commerce retailers are now facing growing amounts of competition, particularly from digitally native and D2C companies, due to low barriers of entry and high demand for on demand shopping. They are continually challenged with redefining their competitive advantage, which often means lowering prices, offering free shipping or exploring niche product markets. And that is where shoppable streaming positions itself as the future of retail and entertainment.
Q: Why do consumers need shoppable entertainment? How will it impact their buying habits?
When consumers see a product or service through traditional advertising, whether it be OOH, voice ads, or even an experiential pop-up, they still have to make the conscious decision to go onto an e-commerce platform and search for the product. When retail and entertainment intersect, viewers become shoppers while watching TV shows or movies. This bypasses a majority of the traditional sales funnel, rendering the time between the buying intent and the buying act near instantaneous.
Q: What do you envision this new hybrid platform will mean for advertisers and marketers?
Just as social media platforms became an inherent part of every marketing strategy, shoppable streaming platforms will become the next step in online shopping. It’s a much more efficient and cost effective version of product placement and will become a major consumer touch point for brands.
Q: How does shoppable streaming change how brands think about product placement?
Shoppable entertainment opens the door to a new era of product placement, something akin to product placement, but the 2.0 version. Traditionally, product placement was simply used as a way to increase brand awareness, with no real direct impact on sales. Shoppable entertainment, however, shakes up the model by adding a new component to the process. Product placement becomes a tangible tool to sell products and goods directly from a streaming platform, with no third party website required.
Q: What are some of the challenges you face?
We are trying to do something that no one has done before – let alone on such a large scale – and it’s challenging. After all, there is a reason no one ventured down this path before. The logistics involved in making it happen rely on multiple parts of a long chain of supply and distribution to all run smoothly and cohesively. It means planning inventory months in advance. It means coordinating productions of shows and movies in compliance with the FTC, all while keeping up with current trends.
Q: Who else will shoppable entertainment appeal to aside from brands? What role does have advertising in the platform?
The platform is equally there for retailers and viewers. From the beginning, the idea was to offer a place where brands can sell their products in a new innovative way and where viewers can indulge in two very common interests: shopping and binge watching.
Shoppable streaming platforms should be based on a free subscription model; free to use and more importantly for the viewers, free from ads. That is widely unusual, especially for a retail platform. In truth, the brands we work with have little use for traditional, siloed advertisement. Advertisers and brands need to think out of the box. Traditional advertising isn’t always the right solution for every brand, and might not even be around forever. For a long time, social and digital were the next natural step of advertising, but OTT and shifting business models in TV and entertainment are opening new doors for marketers. It’s up to them to seize them.