augmented reality youtube

How YouTube AR and shopping tools can grow engagement for brands

By Cristina Ferrandez

More than two billion. That’s how many people visit YouTube each month. And the number is growing. Already the most popular platform on the internet, YouTube increased its share of users by 8% between 2019 and 2021. Compare that to Facebook, whose user base of 69% has remained unchanged for the last three years. 

Unsurprisingly, brands across all industries are eager to maximise their ability to advertise on YouTube. With 90% of people saying they find new brands and products through the video-sharing giant and 50% admitting that the platform helps them decide what to buy, including YouTube ads in your marketing strategy is clearly a good investment. 

However, whereas in the past brands had to rely on video ads and affiliate links to get their products out there, today, they have more advertising options than ever. That is because YouTube, like so many other social media platforms, has been experimenting with ways to make ads more engaging and shopping online easier. Besides introducing new shoppable tools that allow users to buy products directly from YouTube, the platform has also integrated augmented reality (AR) features that give users the ability to virtually try out products featured in videos before they make a purchase. 

For brands looking for innovative, performance-driven marketing solutions, taking advantage of YouTube AR try-on and the platform’s other shopping features is a must.

YouTube shopping features

YouTube has long been looking to make shopping through its platform easier. 

In 2019, for example, YouTube introduced a feature that gave influencers the option to sell merchandise directly underneath their videos (the “merch shelf”). However, even though this made it easier for content creators to promote their products, if viewers wanted to make a purchase, they still had to leave YouTube. 

The same was true for YouTube ads. Whatever product the ad featured, whether before or during a video, there was no way to buy it without leaving the platform — until now. 

Now, YouTube’s new shoppable tools are likely to turn it into the next online marketplace. Brands that want to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive market need to keep up to speed with the platform’s latest offerings: 

Product tagging

Google’s Cloud Video Intelligence API is what makes product tagging possible
Google’s Cloud Video Intelligence API is what makes product tagging possible

YouTube is working to provide users with the ability to make in-app purchases, just like Facebook, Instagram, and other social media apps that already allow users to “tap and buy.” 

Earlier this year, YouTube announced a new feature that, if rolled out, will turn its video library into an impressive digital catalogue of items, allowing viewers to buy items they see in videos without having to leave the platform. 

Still in beta, the feature will involve:

  1. Creators tagging products that appear in their videos.
  2. Viewers clicking on a shopping bag icon on the bottom left corner of a video to see more information on the products tagged by creators and, if interested, to purchase them directly from YouTube.

For example, viewers could buy featured beauty products while watching a makeup tutorial, or purchase food and beverage products that appear as ingredients during a recipe video without having to click on affiliate links. This will make it easier for customers to buy items recommended by influencers. YouTube is also reportedly considering a Shopify integration.

Recommended products

However, creators may not necessarily have to tag products manually in their videos. 

In March 2021, YouTube said it was testing a feature that can automatically detect products in videos. The automated list of products discovered can then be displayed between recommended videos as viewers scroll below the video player. 

In addition to products that appear directly in the video, this feature would also bring viewers’ attention to related products. At the moment, this feature is available to US viewers only.

Shoppable ads

In Shoppable ads, products featured in the ad appear underneath the video
In Shoppable ads, products featured in the ad appear underneath the video

In 2020, YouTube introduced a new direct response ad format to make YouTube videos more shoppable. 

Rather than just showing viewers an ad, YouTube now includes browsable product images directly underneath the ad too. That means that if a user viewing an ad sees a product that interests them, they can click on a blue “SHOP NOW” button beneath the ad to purchase the product from the retailer’s page immediately. 

The clothing company Aerie was one of the first to implement YouTube’s shoppable ads within its marketing strategy, and they increased ad spend return by 25% and grew conversions nine times compared to the previous year when it used more traditional advertising tools. 

Livestream shopping

QVC is the only livestream shopping channel currently on YouTube
QVC is the only livestream shopping channel currently on YouTube

YouTube is also experimenting with livestream shopping. At the start of 2020, Youtube collaborated with QVC to make the home shopping channel available on YouTube TV — the only livestream shopping channel currently on YouTube. 

Users that tune into QVC on their smartphones, tablets, smart TVs, or any other platform with access to YouTube TV, can choose from a constantly changing collection of brands and products presented live by unique personalities.

YouTube AR try-on

youtube AR
YouTube AR Beauty Try-On splits the screen in half

Taking advantage of its active beauty vlogging community, in 2019, YouTube introduced “Beauty Try-On,” an augmented reality ad format that lets users try on makeup virtually when viewing related creator video content, like tutorials and reviews. 

Available through FameBit (now BrandConnect), Google’s in-house branded content platform, this YouTube AR feature creates a split-screen, with a YouTube video continuing to play on the top half and a front-facing camera activating on the lower half. The front-facing camera acts as a mirror, with the user able to browse different shades of the product being discussed in the video and then try them on. 

The YouTube AR try-on feature works on a full range of skin tones, and the makeup does not bleed out the edges — a common problem with AR filters on other social media platforms. When users find a makeup product and shade they like on the YouTube AR tool, they can purchase it directly without leaving the app. 

MAC Cosmetics was the first brand to sign up for the YouTube AR try-on feature. After clicking on the blue “TRY IT ON” button beneath the video’s title, users could follow along with the beauty vlogger Roxette Arisa to try out lipstick shades using their smartphone’s front-facing camera, saving a trip to a physical MAC store. 

youtube AR
YouTube AR Try-On feature can be activated via the “TRY IT ON” button beneath a video

When trialling Beauty Try-On with various beauty brands, YouTube found that about a third of viewers activated the AR feature and spent around 80 seconds trying on lipstick. 

The platform has also added the Beauty Try-On feature to Masthead ads (homepage billboard slots) and TrueView Discovery Video ads (ads that appear at the top of YouTube search results and in the “up-next” section), which makes it easier for users to find brands that use this tool and for brands to attract potential customers. 

For example, the French cosmetics brand NARS reportedly reached more than 20 million people in the UK, US, Canada, and Australia in just a few months after incorporating the AR feature into its Masthead and TrueView ads. In total, users apparently tried more than two-thirds of the 24 lipsticks featured. 

Get started with AR today

From Pinterest to Snapchat to YouTube, every social media platform appears to be investing in AR technology. However, brands should not stop at YouTube AR effects. To make the most of this innovative technology that never fails to surprise and delight customers, brands should also see how they incorporate AR into their own site or app, as well. Don’t know where to start? The team at Poplar Studio will be more than happy to discuss your needs and come up with a unique AR plan explicitly tailored to your brand. Get in touch with us today

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