TV Points The Way Toward Retail (And Amazon’s) Future

TODAY show app

Television has come a long way, not only since those first flickering experiments of nearly a century ago, but since the first shopping and retail offerings of past generations. And now the eCommerce power of TV is also changing, which could lead to other retail innovations involving the technology.

Among the most recent examples of that come from NBCUniversal, which has launched a test run of ShoppableTV, a new tool that displays QR codes that take viewers to eCommerce sites when they are scanned. NBCUniversal reportedly has tested the QR codes during the “TODAY” show. The media giant said ShoppableTV generated thousands of scans during the test run and sales within minutes. The network plans to roll out the advertising tool on its channels including NBC, NBC Sports, Telemundo, Bravo, E!, CNBC Prime and USA Network.

The launch of ShoppableTV is part of an effort by NBCUniversal to improve conversion rates for advertisers running ads during television shows. With internet, mobile and streaming services booming, traditional TV is seeing a slowdown in advertising spend.

Contextual Commerce

That said, TV is also fertile ground for the rise of a digital retail trend called contextual commerce, which over the past year or so has been deeply documented by original PYMTS research. The latest such effort, the recent Digital Consumer Report, takes a focused look at TV’s role in the trend, which, generally put, involves enabling consumer transactions when shoppers discover products in the context of what they are doing online — including via the use of web-connected TVs.

For instance, buyers looking for the blue dress Gemma Chan wore at the 2019 Golden Globes would be lucky to find the same one or something similar online. They would need to determine which dress she wore, figure out where it was sold, find a legitimate seller, purchase it and then wait for it to arrive. This process can seem cumbersome for consumers used to easy shopping experiences.

But if retailers and retail service providers offer a chance to buy such products in the context of the moment, sales can increase as consumers face much less friction before a purchase.

The PYMNTS research report tells the story of one such company looking to remove that friction. New York-based firm TheTake.AI is seeking to clear these obstacles with an artificial intelligence (AI)- and machine learning (ML)-based solution that boils the experience down to a single click. The company enables contextual commerce experiences for eTailers, integrating the buying experience right onto a user’s laptop screen.

From a consumer perspective, TheTake’s purchasing experiences are fairly simple. Users can view products featured in movies or shows on their laptops. They can then click on a product and be directly routed to a retailer’s website to purchase the item with one click. This mirrors how they already shop on Instagram or other online platforms. TheTake currently powers this experience through web-based video content, though it is also working to bring its offering to television.

Ty Cooper, TheTake’s CEO, told PYMNTS that enabling contextual shopping via TV requires screens that can process the amount of data necessary to create viable experiences, as well as software that can accurately distinguish between similar items. He said the company has promoted this by working with a database featuring millions of images to hone these capabilities.

Amazon TV Push

That’s not all when it comes recent developments involving TV and retail. Amazon — which famously ran its very first eCommerce ad on television in 2013, one in support of Amazon’s fashion product category — earlier this year launched a brand new video streaming service called Amazon Live, according to reports. The service features live shows from Amazon’s talent pool and also from brands through an app called the Amazon Live Creator.

Shows on the service operate much like QVC does, with hosts talking about and demonstrating Amazon products. Under the video, customers can view product details and buy things.

Television, in many respects, seems like an ancient technology in these days of streaming and mobile commerce, of having pretty much any video or film instantly accessible. But TV’s ongoing role in retail and eCommerce is not retro — it’s another pathway toward the future of buying and selling.


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Our data and analytics team has developed a number of creative methodologies and frameworks that measure and benchmark the innovation that’s reshaping the payments and commerce ecosystem. In the December 2019 Mobile Card App Adoption Study, PYMNTS surveyed 2,000 U.S. consumers for a reveal of the four most compelling features apps must have to engage users and drive greater adoption.