If there's one keyword at the centre of the burgeoning fashion and tech scene at the moment, it's 'shoppable'. Just as retailers and brands get a grasp on how to handle content, it's commerce that begins to drive the sector forward again - undoubtedly the effect of greater need for ROI within the social space.
What's resulted is a lot of experimentation with multiple great ideas, numerous not so good ones, and a handful of indications as to what the future might bring.
Video has proved one of the most thought-provoking and headline grabbing methods; click-to-buy moving images, as the industry tries to cash in on the increasing appetite for highly creative and beautiful films.
ASOS did so imaginatively with a campaign called Urban Tour last year that pulled together street artists from around the world to drive men towards its site. And Danish denim brand Only Jeans did so as well with what it called a "fashion catalogue, movie, game, music video, and the world's first on demand, online, video, retail environment". Both won awards at Cannes Lions this year.
The stats were impressive too - ASOS saw 14% of viewers purchase within seven minutes. Accordingly, it's launched another series, this time for women for the holiday season under the #BestNightEver tagline. Starring hip-hop artist Azealia Banks, model Charlotte Free and singer Ellie Goulding, it's sure to be another runaway success.
And yet, despite that, I remain to be convinced these highly interactive, not to mention big budget options, are the best answer if we're talking about scaled commerce.
As pointed out by Lauren Sherman, executive digital editor of US Condé Nast shopping title, Lucky Mag recently, most consumers actually don't want to watch videos (especially those any longer than 30-60 seconds) if they're trying to get something out of it - in this case items to buy. There's a disconnect between viewing for entertainment and for purpose as yet.
Yes today's tweens are growing up on video, but equally expecting them to sit through lengthy creative film work is not so suited to their on-the-go, real-time behaviour. There are brand identity pieces and then there's the type designed to encourage consumers to buy. The first often inspires the second, but trying to make them one and the same is a big ask.
Case in point: a luxury brand (that shall remain nameless) attempted a similar interactive film last year, but the functionality proved so poor you couldn't move your cursor to the item being advertised in time before the frame changed. Juicy Couture meanwhile just launched a new initiative thanks to YouTube's beta external annotations technology (as reported by AdAge). It works wonderfully, but to view the items featured you're pulled away to another tab on your browser. Do that a few times and you've lost the point of the narrative - a Terry Richardson-directed tale about supermodel Candice Swanepoel and her Juicy Couture-fuelled dream sequence.
Not a great case for engagement you could argue.
And that for now is where the main issue lies. Shoppable content aims to capture consumers at the point of inspiration and the moment of intent, but to do so, it has to work, and more intuitively so.
Target's new short film series, Falling For You, perhaps provides a better example by merely hinting at the idea of shopping with a column running alongside the content featuring items from its new collection as they hit the screen. As you watch, you can "heart" things that pop up; a digital update on product placement if you will.
It's that idea that seems more exciting, applicable across media and likelier to scale. But even then, the process to buy consists of several, almost clunky, click throughs.
Video undoubtedly plays an enormous role in driving consumers to websites, but shopping from them directly still needs some work. As Darrell Whitelaw, executive creative director at IPG Media Lab, told Fact Company: "This is the Sony Walkman of ecommerce and video. The thinking is spot-on, but the execution is just awful."
Which is why I return to the ASOS holiday example. Although it likewise uses the new YouTube technology, it recognises the fact there remains a gap for consumers between entertainment (in this case, music videos) and commerce (it's transactional site). It has therefore tried to fill it by placing additional content around the campaign. Yes you can click on items Ellie Goulding is wearing as you watch her sing, but so too can you see behind-the-scenes images, the whole collection on one page and an interview with the star. You can even win certain pieces by connecting via other social media platforms.
It's not about the technology in that case, it's about the content. Yet so too is it ultimately about the product.
With the concept of shoppable film still novel, there are column inches to be gained in encouraging consumers to interact, but in the long run it has to be fast, seamless and closer to the nature of online user behaviour for it to have true and lasting cut through.
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