YouTube Steps Up Livestream Shopping for the Holidays

The “YouTube Holiday Stream and Shop” is set to kick off on Nov. 15, Google’s video platform revealed Tuesday during Advertising Week in New York.

The online event campaign will extend for a week and feature shoppable livestreams, beginning with influencer duo the Merrell Twins, who will cover their picks from Walmart, Samsung and Verizon.

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The campaign is notable, at least for YouTube, which didn’t immediately speed into the live shopping craze. While other giants like Amazon and Instagram have already ramped up and promoted their efforts, whether by dedicating valuable space in the app to feature streams or launching weekly programs to spread the word, the Google company took a more measured approach.

It dipped its toe into the waters at first, making on-demand videos shoppable, then holding limited live shopping tests like “Small Biz Day” this summer. The project, which featured streams from 20 small businesses, gave way to more pilots.

According to a blog post penned by Tara Walpert Levy, Google’s vice president of agency and brand solutions, YouTube worked with several top creators recently to test new live shopping features. She pointed out that Simply Nailogical launched her new nail polish collection to 2.8 million fans on her channel, and Hyram unveiled his new “Selfless” skin care products to 4.5 million fans.

“We’ve also tested shoppable livestreams with leading retailers on their channels. Raven Elyse went live to sell her favorite home workout gear and morning routine essentials from Walmart, Sephora beauty directors hosted a live Q&A about makeup foundations, and Target performed a live style haul celebrating fall style,” detailed Walpert Levy.

The moves suggest that YouTube finally may be ready to claim its place in the rapidly expanding universe of livestream commerce, potentially shifting the gravity.

The company points to a study it conducted alongside Publicis and TalkShoppe, which recently reported that 89 percent of viewers said they trust YouTube creators’ recommendations.

Whether YouTube creators are more trustworthy than others remains to be seen, especially considering influencers often build audiences across multiple platforms. But there’s another aspect of YouTube that does stand out: Its presence in TV-watching households.

According to eMarketer, YouTube is the leading over-the-top video platform in the U.S., with apps available on most internet-connected TV streaming boxes at a dominant market share of 95.5 percent. Across YouTube and its YouTube TV streaming television service, the company reaches 120 million TV watchers.

While juggernauts in television like NBCUniversal attempt to crack e-commerce and social, and social media and other tech platforms look for ways to grow their advertising muscle, YouTube sits in an intriguing place, as a success in both worlds.

That could explain why the company hasn’t rushed into live shopping — there’s a lot at stake.

As it is, Coresight Research projects live shopping in the U.S. will go from $6 billion last year to $11 billion this year, and as much as $25 billion in two years, more than tripling the market. But that doesn’t presume any sort of television effect.

Meanwhile, YouTube recently made its TV efforts more shoppable with “video action campaigns” that combine inventory from YouTube, Google video partners and YouTube’s connected TV channel. “When a viewer sees a video action campaign on their TV, they are invited through a URL at the bottom of their screen to continue shopping on the brand’s website from their desktop or mobile device — without interrupting their viewing session,” it explained.

Right now, the experience can be a bit clunky. It needs to be smoothed out if it aims to suit influencer-driven live shopping and live up to Walpert Levy’s promise that “people who shop on YouTube make faster, more confident purchase decisions.”

Regardless, at least one major retailer is sold on live shopping through YouTube: Walmart. The big-box company has worked with everyone from TikTok to Netflix, so it’s no stranger to social media or entertainment partnerships.

“We think about YouTube as a connector to our customers — reaching people through inspiration, entertainment and creativity,” William White, Walmart’s chief marketing officer, was quoted as saying in the YouTube blog.

“At Walmart, we continue to innovate on behalf of the customer, and we are excited about our work together,” added White. “Through our partnership with YouTube, we will continue to evolve how we link inspiration and commerce.”

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