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This year, shoppable TV ads may deliver the goods that live shopping never could

Two carts facing away from the viewer towards the setting sun, with a computer cursor clicking it.

Illustration by Robyn Phelps / Shutterstock / The Current

Fans of the multi-Emmy-award-winning TV show Succession are likely familiar with Kendall Roy’s baseball caps, those brandless yet pricey cashmere numbers by Italian label Loro Piana. Trouble is, unless you’re “in the know” or willing to stop the show to search online, it may be hard to identify where you could buy such $500-plus gear.

Soon, you may not have to wonder any longer, nor will you have to interrupt your streaming experience to find out.

At the 2024 Consumer Electronics Showcase, Disney joined other streamers and retailers in laying out its shoppable TV ambitions when it announced new ad formats, including one that lets users send an ad’s product information to their phones and one that, “in the very near future,” will allow users to buy the products they see in films and TV shows.

This year is set to be both a testing ground and a battleground for shoppable TV ads, which could position connected TV (CTV) as a performance channel while helping advertisers meet consumers where they increasingly spend time.

“The blending of commerce and content has been a driving force behind the interest in shoppable TV,” says Gary Mittman, CEO at ad tech firm Kerv Interactive. “This is part of a broader evolution in consumer behavior and technology, where traditional boundaries between entertainment and shopping are increasingly blurred.”

Being able to shop while you watch is something advertisers and consumers alike value: A recent study from CTV ad tech firm BrightLine found that the number of interactive CTV ads doubled this past holiday season compared to last. And recent LG Ad Solutions research found that half of CTV users wish they had a seamless option to buy advertised products.

Shoppable TV ads have some similarities with live shopping, whose most recent evolution relies on users selling products while livestreaming and is a big business in China. Meta and TikTok are among the firms trying to popularize the concept in the West in recent years, with limited success.

But unlike live shopping, shoppable TV ads don’t require consumers to alter their behavior significantly. Western consumers are used to buying while consuming normal social media content, with the U.S.’s projected $86 billion social commerce market this year as testament. That starting point could be vital to consumers embracing shoppable TV ads.

“[Viewers] are finding inspiration from the stories, talent, and cast members on their screens, impacting decisions like styling outfits, cooking recipes, and choosing where to travel. Plus, [they] are accustomed to interacting and transacting with content on digital surfaces,” Evan Moore, senior vice president of commerce partnerships, advertising, and partnerships at NBCUniversal, tells The Current.

“The growth towards shoppable television, where viewers can respond in real time and shop on their TV, is only a natural progression.”

The year of shoppable TV ads

Disney isn’t the only one with shoppable TV ambitions. Paramount is trialing them in Australia. NBCUniversal, Dish Media, Channel 4, and Samsung Ads are also busy expanding their interactive ad offerings.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s potential to become a top player in this space is clear, with its vast library of content and live sports rights married to an enormous marketplace. Indeed, it’s already making moves, planning to introduce more “interactive video ads” after seeing increased engagement during its Black Friday NFL football game last year.

“In 2024, look at all the main players to continue to invest and experiment in shoppable video. Further collaborations will occur,” says Douglas Montgomery, senior analyst at Aluma Insights, citing Walmart’s partnerships with Roku and with Peacock’s Below Deck Mediterranean. The former partnership reportedly resulted in shoppable ads receiving significantly higher click-through rates than average video campaigns.

Moore, meanwhile, says that many of the smaller, emerging advertisers that were featured in a NBCUniversal shoppable opportunities “have seen 10 percent to 20 percent increases in on-site sales and, in some cases, 100-percent-plus increases in social engagement.”

When working with retailers on shoppable TV ads, brands will likely also have access to their vast troves of first-party data. Ami Lathia, director of off-platform ad products at Roundel, Target’s retail media arm, says retailers’ data, drawn from loyalty programs, registries, and past-purchase-based behaviors, is a major advantage in helping brands deliver “high-impact messaging at key streaming moments.”

It doesn’t hurt that when ads are run within retailer-branded shoppable TV campaigns, advertisers can also benefit from the trust that consumers place on a brand like Target. Lathia points to Mead Johnson seeing double-digit ROAS when it featured its Enfamil baby formula in Target’s shoppable CTV offering.

“We believe that more brands will be eager to try new CTV features in 2024,” says Lathia. “With more RMNs [retail media networks] offering unique CTV creative, RMNs are innovating and offering brands new ways to engage with consumers in ways never done before with CTV formats.”

The next frontier

One area to see innovation this year could be shoppable TV ads’ path to purchase, with players working to ensure it is as frictionless as possible.

“The biggest area of potential improvement would be in the elegance of purchasing,” says Montgomery. Already, Roku found that consumers are more likely to click “OK” on their remote instead of scanning a QR code. The company also said that display and clickable formats “are both huge bets for us” in 2024.

Streamers and retailers’ investments in shoppable TV ads could point to this being a key growth area for CTV and retail media in the year ahead. That’s backed by marketers’ own bullishness: An Insider Intelligence report last year found that 57 percent of survey respondents see shoppable video content as “the next frontier,” ahead of other retail media advancements like in-store digitization or augmented and virtual reality.

“Whether viewing content on a big screen in a lean-back mode or leaned in on a laptop or mobile device, consumers simply click a link or scan a QR code to be brought directly to the product featured in the show content, allowing for an immersive and frictionless shopper experience,” says Mittman. “This next frontier is already here.”