YouTube  today announced a new direct response ad format that will make YouTube video ads more “shoppable” by adding browsable product images underneath the ad to drive traffic directly to brands’ product pages. The introduction of the format comes at a time when advertisers are trying to find new ways to capture consumers’ growing interest in e-commerce shopping, amid a pandemic that’s kept people from shopping brick-and-mortar physical stores for fear of infection.

YouTube, in particular, believes its platform can serve this shift in interest, given that today 70% of people claim they’ve bought a brand’s product because they saw it in a YouTube video.

To use the new shoppable format, brands will first need to sync their Google  Merchant Center feed with their video ads. They can then visually expand an ad’s “call to action” button with the best-selling products it wants to feature in the ad in order to generate traffic that sends viewers directly to the product listing on the brand’s own website.

One early tester of the new format was Aerie, which wanted to advertise on YouTube to both boost consumers’ love for its brand and its apparel sales for its Spring 2020 campaign. The company ran targeted ads on YouTube and saw a 25% higher return on ad spend than the prior year, as well as nine times more conversions than with their traditional ad mix, YouTube says.

Related to this news, YouTube also announced “Video action campaigns” — a way to bring YouTube video ads that drive these sorts of calls-to-action to YouTube’s home feed, watch pages and Google’s video partners, from within one campaign. The company says it will also include any future inventory that becomes available, like the What to Watch Next feed.

An early tester for this ad product was the startup Mos, which aims to help students find college scholarships. Over the past few months, Mos saw 30% more purchases for its service at a third of the cost, compared to its previous YouTube benchmarks, said YouTube.

Brands can also use the lead-generation forms along with their video ad campaigns to capture more leads while also running their ads, as Jeep did with its Korea branch leading to a 13x increase in completed leads at an 84% lower cost per lead.

YouTube isn’t the only tech giant that’s focused more heavily serving the needs of brands — and particularly e-commerce brands — in recent months. Facebook and Instagram rolled out Shops in May, to turn business profiles into online storefronts where consumers can buy directly from brands without leaving Facebook’s or Instagram’s app. Snapchat also this month expanded its dynamic ads for e-commerce retailers worldwide, allowing brands to easily run automated product ads on Snapchat’s app by way of templates connected to product catalogs.

But YouTube’s ads are perhaps more similar to those shoppable video ads now appearing on streaming services like Hulu and NBCU’s Peacock, where viewers can transact using their remote control. In YouTube’s case, however, viewers are just clicking and tapping their way through to the advertiser’s site.

Like many, YouTube believes businesses will continue to need solutions like these to find leads, boost their web traffic and drive more online sales, even when coronavirus-driven government restrictions lift and physical stores re-open.

Typically, announcements like this would have been made at YouTube’s NewFronts presentation, but as that event is now online-only due to the pandemic, YouTube has rolled out the news early.


YouTube is reportedly planning to launch an in-app rival to viral video-sharing app TikTok before the end of 2020

youtube tiktok
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, left, and TikTok global head Alex Zhu. Noam Galai/Getty Images; John Phillips/Getty Images for TechCrunch

YouTube reportedly plans to launch a shortform video-sharing feature inside its mobile app by the end of 2020 in an attempt to make a dent in the surging popularity and impact of TikTok.

The feature is called “Shorts,” and will live within YouTube’s existing mobile app,  according to The Information . It seems the feature will mimic to concept of TikTok: a feed of super-short videos that act as an alternative to longer vlogs and clips that appear on YouTube.

With  nearly two billion downloads , TikTok has become the go-to launchpad for memes and internet culture since it was launched by Chinese-based company ByteDance  in September 2017 . When TikTok debuted in the US just under a year later, it became the next best thing for creators yearning for a replacement for Vine since Twitter shut it down in 2016.

But Shorts may be able to pose a real threat with its roots tied to YouTube, the most popular video-sharing platform in the world that’s been around for more than 15 years. Because Shorts will exist inside YouTube’s app, users will be able to harness the established platform’s extensive library of licensed music and soundtracks when making videos. It also means that YouTube won’t have to convince users to download another app onto their phones to use Shorts, and  creators who have built up millions of subscribers on their existing YouTube channels won’t have to convince their fanbase to migrate over to another app for more content.

US-based companies and startups have made several attempts at their own apps to take on TikTok, but none have been able to reach the level of popularity that TikTok has achieved and is continuing on which to build. The only similar platform to have found comparable success in the US is —  which ByteDance acquired in 2017 , then shut down a year later to merge into TikTok.

 Facebook released a TikTok competitor  in November 2018 named Lasso, but little has been heard from the app since its debut. Vine’s cofounder launched an app called Byte in early 2020, which  has seen some initial succes s in download numbers but has yet to birth any internet stars or viral memes. Triller, advertised as a music-discovery app,  is banking on partnerships  with major music labels to rival TikTok. Although lip-syncing app Dubsmash has been instrumental in launching some TikTok-famous dances —  notably, the “The Renegade”  — it has only around one-third of the US downloads of TikTok, according to Sensor Tower data  provided to TechCrunch in early 2020 .

Google, YouTube’s parent company, was rumored to be in talks to acquire a TikTok competitor called Firework, the  Wall Street Journal reported in October 2019 . It’s unclear where those discussions are at now, but they could have been dropped now that YouTube is planning to release Shorts sometime this year.