February 13, 2019: Amazon launches Amazon Live; Facebook unveils new updates to Groups and acquires GrokStyle; Pinterest launches new and improved “Shop the Look” functionality; PSFK dives into the future of the physical store
Here’s what’s worth knowing this week:
Live, From Amazon
Amazon is making moves to take on QVC. Last week, the tech giant (re)launched Amazon Live, which features live-streamed video shows from Amazon talent, as well as those from brands that broadcast their own live streams through a new app, Amazon Live Creator.
Tell me more.
On the Live shows, hosts talk about and demonstrate products available for sale on Amazon, similar to the QVC-like home shopping experience. Under the video is a carousel where viewers can browse product details, see reviews, and make purchases. Viewers can also tap on different videos to change streams, scroll down to watch recordings of videos that were recently live, or preview what shows are coming up next.
This isn’t Amazon’s first rodeo when it comes to live streaming; however, previous attempts have resulted in somewhat mixed results. In 2017, Amazon canceled Style Code Live, which offered a similar QVC-like viewing experience for fashion and beauty products. Amazon offered no explanation for pulling the programming.
Will Amazon Live survive?
It’s too soon to tell, but this seems like a more realistic “social network” for Amazon, as compared with some of its previous ventures (i.e., Amazon Spark). While there are a lot of competitors in the space that already house well-produced product/shopping review videos (QVC, Instagram, and YouTube, to name a few), Amazon has the opportunity to differentiate itself by using its massive amounts of shopper data to drive personalization – something that Amazon does so well in many of its other ecosystems. With TV only getting more modular and algorithm-driven, now is the perfect opportunity for Amazon to dive into this opportunity.
It’s also worth noting that, if Amazon Live does survive, it’s likely that YouTube and Facebook could build similar programming in the future. Especially, given the sheer mass of influencer videos and reviews already on YouTube, all YouTube/Google would need to do is organize them.
In order to account for the volume of content needed for Amazon Live success (or any product review live stream) as part of your next influencer brief, make sure to not only have influencers create a breadth of content (Instagram, YouTube, Amazon reviews, etc.), but also ensure that you have a breadth of overtly product-centric content vs. lifestyle or OOTD type content. Once you have gathered the content needed and you’re ready to launch the programming, consider bringing brand advocates and influencers on with you to discuss your products. Doing so will not only drive overall engagement, but will also provide another layer of social proof when talking about products on the air.
Facebook Expands Group Offerings
Last week, Facebook held its annual Facebook Communities Summit, and several updates and new features for Groups were unveiled.
Brands and Publishers can now participate in Groups
Groups have been a feature on Facebook since 2010; however, previously, brands’ or publishers’ Pages were not allowed to engage with people within their own personal communities. Instead, the only way a brand or publisher could participate in a Group was to engage influencers to do it on their behalf. With this latest update, brands can step into Groups in a much more direct way, opening up new lines communication with consumers.
Instagram Direct has been brought to Facebook Page Inbox
To help businesses better manage conversations, businesses will now be able to receive and respond to Instagram Direct messages from their Facebook Page Inboxes on desktop and mobile through the Pages Manager app. While it’s somewhat strange that it took until 2019 for Facebook to merge some of its messaging features, we are still #grateful. Given the sheer volume of people messaging with brands on its platforms, Facebook’s only real option was to make it easier for marketers to communicate (so that it could sell more ads to marketers, obvi).
Over the past year, as Facebook has tried to rebuild its platform, it has prioritized Messaging and Groups as two productive features on the network, highlighting the variety of ways both Messaging and Groups serve to connect people in positive ways.
For Groups specifically, Facebook’s continued investment also highlights the widespread adoption of Groups in forming niche communities. While brands and publishers can now participate in Groups, influencers are still the Group subject-matter experts and gatekeepers, so it’s important for brands to continue to work with influencers to understand the Groups that are important to them and to learn how they can begin to engage in Groups in organic and authentic ways (if permitted by Group admins).
Facebook Shows Up In (Grok)Style
Facebook has acquired visual shopping startup GrokStyle to strengthen its AI technology.
The idea behind GrokStyle’s visual search technology, which was integrated into Ikea’s mobile app, is seemingly simple: a user can take a picture of a piece of furniture and the technology matches it to visually similar ones in stock at stores.
Facebook’s acquisition of GrokStyle highlights the growing importance and convergence of visual search, AI, social proof, and physical/digital spaces as we evolve towards social capital as currency becoming a reality.
While it’s not entirely clear how GrokStyle’s technology will integrate into Facebook, it’s likely that the company’s AI tools will play a role in the platform’s e-commerce ambitions, specifically in its Marketplace offering. With 800 million users coming to Marketplace each month to buy and sell goods, AI could help Facebook create more relevant shopping experiences for users. It’s also likely that Facebook could be interested in integrating GrokStyle’s technology on Instagram, where the platform has been heavily leaning into developing its e-commerce offerings. You can also imagine that Facebook will sell an ad option that will allow marketers to re-target users after they take a photo of an object and search for it.
Pinterest Automates “Shop the Look”
After two years of manually curating “Shop the Look” product offerings, Pinterest has launched its new and improved fully automated experience. Previously, the platform had relied on computer vision technology and human curators to match pinned images to products that users can buy from Pinterest partners. Pinterest has initially rolled out this feature to home decor items on iOS devices, with plans for expansion into other industries and devices in the near future.
Tell me more.
According to Pinterest, the “Shop the Look” update will increase the coverage of each “Shop the Look” Pin by 22.5x. Early testing has also revealed a seven percent increase in user engagement for these Pins. As Pinterest expands and scales its “Shop the Look” feature, the system will tag organic Pins that have not been linked to business accounts. With more “Shop the Look” Pins in the system, Pinners will begin to see a much more consistent user experience across the platform.
Refresh me on “Shop the Look” Pins.
First launched in February 2017, “Shop the Look” Pins allow businesses to tag products within organic Pins. The tags appear as small white dots. When users tap on one of the white dots in a “Shop the Look” Pin, they’ll see more information, including pricing and availability, and a link to buy the item.
Whether it’s through Pinterest’s “Shop the Look” automation or Facebook’s acquisition of GrokStyle, platforms are increasingly investing in visual search technologies to reduce the friction between product discovery and making a purchase.
As Pinterest looks to expand the number of “Shop the Look” Pins on Pinterest, marketers need to prepare accordingly. More SKUs = more content. Influencers, the repurposing of influencer-generated content across touchpoints (especially on product pages), and strategically amplifying that content on platforms like Pinterest is what keeps this engine moving forward at scale.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that, although Pinterest is on its way to automating the “Shop the Look” experience, currently, automated tagging only exists for home decor Pins. If your brand doesn’t fall into that category, for the time being, Pinterest recommends continuing to work with Olapic or Curalate to automate the tagging process. SMBs and influencers have the opportunity to manually tag items via a self-serve tool available to all business accounts.
What’s in Store for the Future of Retail
As part of New York Retail Innovation Week, PSFK hosted a panel where three experience design leaders shared insights on the future of the physical store and the key consumer needs it continues to serve in today’s a Digital Age.
What do retailers need to do?
Three things: Capture consumers’ attention first before even being shared on Instagram; enable interactive discovery; and forge an authentic bond between customer and brand.
Ok, but how?
There are a few ways. First, retailers need to create spaces that engage customers. Think beyond creating touchpoints to simply engage consumers’ visual or auditory senses. How can you create a multi-sensory experience, one that engages consumers’ sense of smell, taste, and touch, as well? With an Instagram-first design becoming somewhat table stakes, retailers now have the opportunity to move towards personalization and something that feels unique to the customer. By bringing people into unique environments, you’re making experiences Instagrammable.
Spoiler alert: physical retail stores aren’t going anywhere. Why? Because visual search is only as powerful as the content created, which is why a digital-first retail experience is increasing in importance. The more share-worthy/digitally-integrated you make your in-store experience, the better chance you have of driving additional purchases through word-of-mouth.