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‘Tis the Season for Video Innovation

The 2019 holiday shopping season may be short on actual shopping days but is proving to be long on shopping innovations thanks to the debut of new ad formats designed to heighten engagement and simplify the purchasing process.

Because Thanksgiving falls so late this year, there are five fewer shopping days between Black Friday and Christmas, making 2019 the shortest season since 2013. So ad formats that stand out from the holiday fray, keep viewers’ attention and clinch transactions are especially critical this season and brands are rising to the challenge. Here are a few examples.

Filling the Void in a Novel Way
The Toys R Us bankruptcy in 2018 left a gaping hole for many parents. And while no brick-and-mortar retailer has emerged to fill the gap, a virtual store called KidHQ is helping to replicate online the toy browsing and discovery that until now could only be done IRL. Mattel and Walmart are “leasing floors” in KidHQ and using interactive video ads to take that online exploration to the next level.

As the Wall Street Journal reported, Walmart’s Toy Lab lets users examine, test and watch children (played by actors) play with dozens of different toys. On Mattel’s Barbie DreamFloor, users can help Barbie create her own video blog and browse Barbie products. For advertisers, the interactive video ad formats not only give consumers a fresh new way of interacting with brands and products, but also foster deeper engagement by requiring the user’s participation and, ultimately, providing more incentive to purchase.

You Choose on You Tube
KidHQ was built by Eko, a startup that received funding from Walmart to create a joint venture for interactive programming. Eko is also partnering with YouTube on choose-your-own-adventure-style shows, a new storytelling format aimed at increasing viewers and boosting ad sales on the video site. The move follows last year’s launch of new ad formats that lets users engage interactive content and make purchases without leaving the platform.

The growing interest in interactive video ads is coming in part from tech advances that make video ad innovations possible as well as the efficacy of the new formats. Interactive video ads drive a 47% gain in time spent compared to a non-interactive ad, according to a study from Magna. And when Walmart and Eko experimented with an initial version of a Toy Lab, visitors spent an average of 13 minutes and had 13 interactions per visit.

Shoppable Ads Reflect Value of Video
A more recent ad innovation from You Tube is the launch of Shopping ads in users’ home feeds and search results that get served based on users’ browsing and search activity. Marketing Dive noted that You Tube is debuting the function as a way to tap into how consumers use video during the shopping journey. Nearly two-thirds of consumers said that online video has informed and inspired the decision to make a purchase, according to the company’s research. More than 90% have discovered new products and brands on YouTube.

YouTube video ads have also been updated to be more interactive. For instance, users can now click on a video for store location information and interest forms. In addition, YouTube soon will allow advertisers to create sitelink extensions for action ads so that advertisers can direct consumers to specific landing pages such as an offer page or a holiday catalog. A beta test with 30 advertisers delivered a 23% conversion jump after adding sitelinks.

You Tube is not alone in its efforts to make digital platforms more engaging and easier to shop on. Pinterest, Instagram and TikTok have all released ad units that make it easier for consumers to click to buy.

According to eMarketer, the shortened 26-day shopping period may challenge brands to reach their holiday sales goals. Nevertheless the research firm expects U.S. holiday sales to top $1 trillion for the first time. Advertisers’ embrace of new video technologies and strategies that better reflect the way today’s consumers shop is no doubt an important factor in keeping sales strong.