Retail Insights Retail Technology

From shoppable impressions to shopfront intentions

By Dan Friel, Global client president

August 16, 2021 | 7 min read

As part of The Drum’s Retail Deep Dive, iProspect’s Dan Friel tells us how advanced media tech and platforms are reimagining what the customer journey could look like for mainstream brands, simplifying and shortening journeys that have historically been complex and opaque.


We all know that, as a result of the global pandemic, e-commerce is here to stay. eMarketer states that e-commerce grew 27.6% worldwide in 2020, and in the UK digital commerce grew 54% according to the ONS. Consumer behavior has definitively shifted, with new customer journeys emerging as a result, unsurprisingly these are shorter and simpler and are being supported by new media tech and platform solutions.

These new solutions are broadly encapsulated in two trends: the continuing rise of shoppable placements, in its many existing forms, and its logical extension as digital shopfronts. These digital shopfronts are more than DTC websites, they are ads and content that have become themselves digital retail experiences – places where products can be purchased directly without leaving the content.

Asia has been leading the way with this type of content, but what we are seeing is a global acceleration in accessibility, footprint and consumer take-up. So, with omnichannel planning here to stay, the challenge and opportunity for advertisers is to look at each element of their marketing activities and to consider how it could become more shoppable without it jarring as a consumer experience – elements of full funnel will still apply, albeit with more direct connections to those purchase or trial conversion points.

The first step is to maximize the immediate, impulse opportunity (it has many names: shoppable impressions, click to buy, buy it now, add to basket… formats that are all moving from niche to scalable activations). There are three areas to consider here: social commerce, audio and QR codes, all of which have the power to enable consumers to act on impulse and buy products no matter where they are.

Most important is social commerce and at the forefront of this is Instagram. With shoppable posts and a multitude of influencers, it is the key platform for many brands to sell through. L’Oréal, for example, has used a mixture of content creators and shoppable ads to lift purchases on campaigns globally, with many examples hitting double digit increases. Facebook has launched Shops across its app portfolio, and as shown recently by Missoma, this drives incremental orders in the thousands and improves ad engagement. Similar to Shops is Tik Tok’s partnership with Shopify, with which it signed a commerce partnership last year enabling in-feed and shoppable video ads on the app. Twitter, not wanting to be left behind, is launching a pilot of Shop Module its version of in-app purchasing. Very soon we should be looking at the majority of any social media plan being shoppable – an opportunity not to be missed and one that advertisers should be testing now.

While video is driving much of commerce’s growth, we cannot leave out audio. The brilliant Berocca campaign from Bayer, an early example of the Alexa cart beta, saw ads delivered via Global radio stations through Alexa enabled devices only. The ad ended with a call to action for listeners to interacting with their own voice and vocally stating their interest – could purchase the product.

And finally, QR codes, with the pandemic making them truly mainstream around the globe brands have another way to shorten the purchase journey. Some brands have been using them for a while, like Lacoste, who used them in-store and on static ads but are now using them at televised live events and in its TV ads. Adidas went a step further and built a whole campaign around them, Hidden in Plain Sight, using QR codes to turn poster sites into guerrilla shops for a trainer drop.

It’s clear almost any placement can become a shoppable moment, so marketers should be trialing these tactics as they look to build the optimal omnichannel plans. Having said that, it is imperative the right application of a shoppable moment is applied at the right time and it won’t always be appropriate to universally pop a QR code on a creative. We are heading to a future where the purchase journey can be as simple as just a click of the button on your phone or a word into a mic, but you do need to consider the intersection of the person, the place, the time and the media to avoid the epic retail fail. With this sound consideration, there is also an opportunity for deeper retail brand experiences through digital shopfronts.

Unsurprisingly, fashion is at the forefront of this. Burberry partnered with Instagram for the launch of a limited-edition collection (B-Series), which was available for 24 hours only through its Instagram account. It sold out within a few hours. This live element is also core part of Amazon Live, in which the platform hosts interactive shoppable livestreams. It is part QVC, part Instagram, but 100% social commerce. The technology enables creators and brands to interact directly with consumers, and the add to basket element could not be simpler.

And Facebook as ever is not far behind having already launched in the US its ‘Live Shopping Fridays’, a series of livestreamed shopping events with brands such as Sephora, Bobbi Brown and Abercrombie & Fitch. Alongside the shopping opportunity, these feature Q&As, behind the scenes videos and influencer demos.

There are hipper more exclusive approaches as well, Bambuser is a live video shopping app, similar to Ntwrk, which it says bridges the gap between traditional retail and e-commerce. The content broadcast on the app mixes influencers, social media ads and the all-important live experience, brands such as Samsung have successfully used it to beat conversion goals by 127% for product launches.

Even newspapers are getting in on the act, with The Guardian making every recipe in its weekend food supplement a shoppable experience through QR codes, enabling shoppers to add to basket for Ocado simply by scanning the code.

As with any new opportunity, it’s important to test and learn, but also to build on and extend what already works. Turning creators into live shopping presenters, utilizing QR codes on static and dynamic ads, as well as pushing the boundaries of what is possible on Instagram and other social platforms.

Moving from shoppable to shopfront impressions is the next step for brands and e-commerce, shortening the consumer journeys, bringing consumers closer and maximizing the sales opportunity for every element of the marketing plan.

Dan Friel is global client president at iProspect, a Dentsu company.

For more on the reinvention of retail, check out The Drum’s Retail hub, where we explore everything from livestreaming e-commerce to AR shopping and conscious consumerism.

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