Shoppable media: 10 innovative examples from major brands

You know those crazy concept cars automobile manufacturers show off every year? Most end up looking like some B-movie alien-tech sci-fi gone wrong. Exhibit A: Mercedes-Benz’s Vision AVTR concept inspired by the movie Avatar. Hey, kudos to the German engineers for thinking way outside of the box — so far in fact, we don’t detect a single straight line apart from the classic three-pointed star logo. Of course, the likelihood that this kooky car will ever see a full production run and grace our garage is virtually nil. There are, however, a handful of concept cars that do come to fruition. Volkswagen’s next-gen e-van, the I.D.Buzz, started as a concept vehicle but will actually hit US roads in 2023. Even Tesla’s extremely angular, extremely Total Recall Cybertruck will eventually hit real pavement. 

In other words, concept can lead to reality.

In ecommerce, brands of all sizes are experimenting with innovative ways to close the gap between digital content and online shopping experiences. Increasingly, engaging content is where consumers discover new products. With shoppable media, this same content can facilitate more of the shopping experience, too.

Shoppable media enables your email, ad, post, or story to display multiple paths to purchase. From right within your content, you can show your audience that they can buy your product from their preferred retailer and allow each person to follow their own customer journey. Though it may sound very conceptual, the utility is powerful enough to merit real-world use. That’s because when it comes to shopping online, giving consumers a reasonable degree of choice isn’t overwhelming — it makes it easier for them to find the buying options they prefer.

By blurring the line between shopping and content, shoppable media shortens the path between discovery and purchase, reducing the number of clicks and tabs it takes consumers to get to checkout. The moment your content inspires someone to buy, they can act on that desire.

While shoppable media often takes place on social media, shoppable media has broader applications than social commerce. It’s about making content “shoppable,” regardless of where that content lives. Images, video, and other media formats link directly to product pages on a retailer’s website and blend engaging content with shopping information like pricing, ratings, product configurations, and availability.

So, what does shoppable media actually look like? Major brands have already adopted the tools and tech they need to execute the concept in real life. To help inspire you to produce your own shoppable media, here are 10 real-world examples from leading brands.

1. Starbucks shoppable Instagram carousel ad


Carousel ads are a valuable way to display products from various angles, in various configurations, or alongside similar items. They’re particularly useful for products someone may wish to browse or when you have multiple items that appeal to the same audience. This makes them an excellent application for shoppable media because the medium is already designed to fulfill some aspects of the shopping experience. 

Starbucks used a shoppable carousel ad on Instagram to show off lifestyle imagery, various formats of its Breakfast Blend, and another roast. By coupling carousel ads with PriceSpider’s shoppable media capabilities, Starbucks linked each image to a specific retailer’s landing page and even pulled stock availability directly from those pages.

Brands often worry about linking ad campaigns directly to retailers because you lose the ability to track your audience and connect sales to your campaign. But PriceSpider’s shoppable media solution is a component of a more robust software: Where to Buy. Where to Buy comes with universal tracking capabilities that follow your audience as they click through your ads and buy your products. So instead of focusing on what data it can track, Starbucks focuses on providing the best shopping experience.

2. Purina Friskies Facebook ad


Shoppable media isn’t limited to Instagram or any other social platform. Purina used a shoppable Facebook ad to promote Friskies cat food. When its audience clicked “shop now” on the ad, they were taken to a landing page where they could compare buying options at-a-glance and choose their preferred path to purchase. 

Purina could choose which distributors it wanted to display and which order to display them in. Thanks to Where to Buy’s universal tracking, it could also see conversion rates and transaction totals at each retailer, enabling the brand to prioritize the highest-converting channels and maximize the value of their campaign. Purina also controlled how much shopping information it wanted to display, letting its audience see ratings and prices at each retailer and make better-informed decisions.

3. Tampax doctor recommended ad


Tampax implemented shoppable media in an Instagram advertising campaign using still imagery and a doctor recommendation. The ad’s primary messaging, “#1 US OBGYN recommended tampon brand,” comes from a survey conducted in 2020, and the imagery helps the claim feel personal and tangible. By making this content shoppable, customers are just a tap away from learning more about this top recommended brand.

With the release of native checkout experiences like Checkout on Instagram, some brands will inevitably wonder: why not just make your media “shoppable” by using a native system? The main reason is that native checkout experiences trade convenience for choice. And while they make it easy to buy, they don’t help people shop

When you use native checkout, your customers have one choice for where they buy: Instagram. And your direct-to-consumer system has to fulfill the order. If you aren’t equipped to do that at scale and provide a similar experience as someone would have through one of your retail partners, it will reflect on your brand.

Native checkout experiences sacrifice shopping information for speed, offering your customers an extremely light “product page” that doesn’t include the assets you’ve produced to optimize the experience through retailers. Not everyone is willing to take these shortcuts in the shopping process, as they may miss out on better prices, perks, and buying options.

In our Tampax example, it takes seconds for someone to see this ad, select a preferred retailer, and make an informed decision about which product was right for them. When your customers have what they need to feel confident about their purchase, you’re going to process far fewer returns.

4. Febreze shoppable Instagram story with Karamo Brown


Febreze leveraged Karamo Brown’s well-documented love for his dog and his nearly 3 million Instagram followers to promote its Fabric Refresher’s pet-odor-eliminating capabilities. Through a series of videos and still images, Karamo’s story showed how he uses Febreze to keep his dog’s favorite spots smelling fresh. At the end of the story, Karamo told his followers to swipe up to get their own Fabric Refresher. Swiping up sent his audience to a relevant landing page that connected back to Karamo’s story and included configuration options and a range of retailers.

Brands often struggle to make influencer campaigns manifest in more than brand awareness. Awareness is valuable but not as tangible, and with how much influencer campaigns tend to cost, brands want to measure and analyze the impact of their investment. Again, this is why Where to Buy shines in ecommerce — you can track sales to individual marketing campaigns, even when the transaction occurs on a retailer’s website. Not to discredit awareness though, as it is still very much a valuable part of brand marketing, but with this technology, you can offer a path to purchase in addition to gaining awareness. 

We can track sales across thousands of ecommerce websites and trace them back to the marketing campaigns they originated from, allowing you to actually measure and compare the value of your partnerships with influencers.

5. Poland Spring Origin shoppable story


Instead of bringing its product to a celebrity’s Instagram story, Poland Spring Origin brought a celebrity into its story. This bottled water brand took lifestyle footage in the wilderness to strengthen its brand’s natural and eco-friendly message, then made that footage shoppable with Where to Buy.

In addition to displaying product configurations, retailers, and stock availability, Poland Spring Origin included a store locator function that allowed its audience to browse local buying options. Since bottled water is an item consumers often buy at their local grocery store, this capability can significantly improve the story’s ability to convert. Wherever they’re located, Poland Spring Origin’s audience can simply add this product to their next grocery trip. 

6. Pampers adorable by design campaign


Instagram and Facebook are constantly flooded with baby pictures. So one of the world’s leading diaper brands fits right in with the content people see all the time. Pampers made its Instagram ads shoppable, taking viewers from a short video to a relevant landing page, where they could select the size of diapers they wanted and quickly compare prices before heading to a retailer. In this case, the pricing information revealed a significantly lower price at Target.

Your customers will appreciate it when you reveal pricing information before driving them to a specific retailer. They don’t have to jump in and out of multiple websites to make sure they’re getting a deal, and they will feel like you’ve got their back. And while a lower price means smaller margins, seeing that there’s a special deal on your products through a particular retailer can increase conversions, too — nobody wants to miss a sale on items they always need.

7. Mattel direct-to-retailer shoppable ads


If you already know that a particular retailer converts better than others, carries a larger percentage of your catalog, or does a better job cross-promoting your products, you may just want to cut to the chase and send your customers directly to the relevant product page. That’s what Mattel opted to do in these shoppable social ads. 

On Instagram, Mattel playfully displayed their products “in action,” posing toys in various settings and showing actual kids playing with them. This fits well with the medium of Instagram stories and invites endless creativity, inspiring particular kinds of play and encouraging kids to imagine their own.

On Facebook, Mattel took a different approach, using a carousel of products that would appeal to parents with young children and addressing a range of interests and toy preferences. Each slide of the carousel linked to the corresponding product page on Mattel’s preferred retailer’s website.

[Insert video or GIF of Facebook ad] 

Shoppable media isn’t always about providing your customers with greater choice. Sometimes making your content shoppable simply means streamlining the path to purchase and sending them to the best place to shop your catalog, whether that’s you or a major retailer.

8. Tide influencer campaign with Jessica Egan


Parents want laundry detergent that’s safe for their kids and still gets clothes clean and fresh. Tide partnered with influencer Jessica Egan, known for sharing her journey as a mom with a child who has Down Syndrome. Jessica’s vulnerability and willingness to share so openly about her daughter has resonated with her followers and earned their trust. Parenting also involves a lot of laundry — like a lot. So it was only natural that Jessica would share her laundry secrets. Accompanied by photos of her daughter, Rowan, Jessica shared why she loves Tide and trusts this product with her baby’s sensitive skin.

Swiping up on Jessica’s post took her followers to a landing page where they could select their preferred retailer and see stock availability.

9. Always shoppable Instagram ad


Feminine care brand Always used shoppable media to turn an important announcement into a shopping experience, spreading the word that its products had become eligible for health savings accounts and flexible savings accounts under some health plans. In the post, Always encouraged customers to check with their HSA or FSA advisor to confirm Always products were covered, then directed customers to a page to compare buying options. Once again, displaying pricing information enabled customers to see that Walmart had an exceptionally low price, speeding up the shopping process.

10. Purina shoppable email


Any content can become shoppable media. Purina made emails about a special holiday deal shoppable by highlighting multiple retailers and driving customers to a page where they could select a distributor. Customers could find a retailer near them using an interactive map or order online. Purina chose an option that let customers select configurations based on the type of pet, brand of treats, specific product, and the size of the bag.

This all served to help customers quickly find the treats their furry friends needed, without hunting on Google or jumping from one retailer to another.

Shoppable media can come in all shapes and sizes. And while there are no rules set in stone about what it’s supposed to look like, these brands followed some best practices to ensure this content provided a quality experience. To learn more about how to produce quality shoppable media, check out 6 Shoppable Media Dos and Don’ts.

Free guide: Shoppable Media for Brands

In the world of ecommerce, shoppable media has become the latest battleground. Brands are employing tools and strategies to make the most of every impression and turn any moment into a shopping experience.

Want to make your media shoppable? In our free ebook, Shoppable Media for Brands, we explore how brands use shoppable media, why it matters, and how to pull it off.
Get your free copy of Shoppable Media for Brands.

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