Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are many things – public forums, social networking sites, creating connections between individuals regardless of geographical barriers – and over the past few years, they are turning into virtual shopping malls. Meta-owned Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are already used by businesses, brands, and individual wares to showcase their wares and connect with wider target audiences. Now, YouTube is taking a page out of their books and adding shopping features to Shorts, its short-form video offering.
As per a report by the Financial Times, the new shopping features will come to US-based creators who can products from their stores on Shorts, as well as to audiences in a handful of international markets. These include the US, India, Brazil, Canada and Australia. With the new shopping features, viewers will be able to purchase items directly through Shorts as they scroll through YouTube’s TikTok rival.
“We firmly believe YouTube is the best place for creators to build a business and shopping is a piece of that,” said a YouTube spokesperson. This comes weeks after YouTube announced the coming of its Partner Program, where it will let creators of Shorts to directly earn revenue – a cut of 45% – from their videos.
This move by YouTube is quite similar to TikTok and Instagram’s e-commerce ventures, and highlights the focus of social media platforms into online shopping and marketing at a time of reduced ad spending and fears of an upcoming economic downturn. For social media platforms that earn a great portion of their revenue via advertising, the current drying up of ad spends – or the bailing of advertisers, in the case of YouTube – necessitates a push into new avenues, which is where e-commerce and digital marketing come in.
Today, the virtual shopping malls that social media his evolving to provides an easy and accessible place for sellers to set up shop and reach customers, and recent innovations and features have helped them sell directly on the social media platforms, instead of having buyers redirected to external websites. TikTok, for example, is working to integrate shopping into its app with its recent testing of the Shop feature, which will let users purchase products directly in the app.
The addition of shopping features to Shorts is but one out of two features that YouTube is piloting amidst a slowdown in digital advertising. It is also tinkering with a new affiliate program in the US, which will let creators earn commissions through purchases of recommended products in their Shorts and regular videos.
“It is very much an endorsement model, versus a more traditional advertising model or a paid-placement model,” said Michael Martin, YouTube’s Shopping General Manager. “Our goal is to focus on the best monetization opportunities for creators in the market.” It is currently in the early testing phase before it is expected to roll out to more creators in 2023.