YouTube announced on Tuesday that it would introduce shopping ads on its videos that let viewers jump directly to retailers’ websites and buy the products featured in the clips.
The video-sharing site, owned by Google, already lets advertisers show links to products within their own videos. But the new service would place product ads on any video on the site, like product reviews uploaded by amateur reviewers, provided the clip’s owner opts in.
YouTube’s new ads bring a shopping element to yet another corner of the Internet, as highly trafficked websites and social networking services increasingly fashion themselves into shopping hubs.
Sites like Pinterest and Instagram have introduced “buy button” functions that let users purchase the products that appear in the millions of posts and photos shared on their platforms each day. Google itself has pushed to become a shopping destination in an increasingly direct challenge to Amazon, currently the web’s de facto shopping search engine.
YouTube’s ads seek to tap into the fast growth in product reviews and tutorials posted by users. Susan Wojcicki, the company’s chief executive, announced the change at an advertising industry event in New York.
In the last year alone, viewership for product-related clips on YouTube has jumped 40 percent, she said. YouTube users have already uploaded tens of thousands of reviews of a battery-powered self-balancing skateboardlike device that retailers expect to be a hot holiday gift this year.
Once the service is available in the coming months, videos from users who opt into the program, and which contain products that match YouTube ads, will display an icon in the top-right corner.
Users can click on the icon to view a list of images and prices of the products featured in the video, and to jump to retailers’ websites for more reviews, information and an option to buy.
“Over the course of the year, we’ve been working hard to make videos more interactive, shortening the distance between the time a viewer sees an ad and their actual purchase,” YouTube said in a news release.
YouTube’s shopping ads are becoming available as Google struggles to turn the site’s more than a billion users, and its near-ubiquitous presence on the web, into profits.
Since Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006, the site has introduced skippable ads as one way to raise more advertising dollars. YouTube has also invested in a slate of homegrown stars, like the makeup guru Michelle Phan, and has created TV-like channels to get more viewers to visit the site directly instead of simply watching videos embedded on other websites.
YouTube has already taken some early steps into e-commerce, inviting some advertisers to set up their own channels that mix video content and links to product pages.
But that program, introduced in 2013, does not appear to have gained much traction. A channel featuring the Tresemmé hair care brand, set up by Unilever, one of the first YouTube clients to participate, has amassed only 22,000 subscribers.
Still, YouTube is increasing its efforts. This year, it introduced a set of services that let advertisers embed links to products in their videos. YouTube’s new ads use similar technology, but they will show ads on any YouTube video that opts into the program.
YouTube matches videos with ads based on the video’s content and audience. Similar to YouTube’s AdWords service, advertisers pay only when a user clicks on a shopping ad. The site will test the ads this fall, and will offer the service to AdWords clients in the coming months, it said.
For users who upload YouTube videos, the shopping ads could mean a new revenue stream, the sites said. And for viewers, YouTube promises an unobtrusive way to shop as they surf videos.
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