What do YouTube’s new moves re: click-to-buy overlays mean for the video commerce industry?

You may have heard late last month YouTube announced it would allow content owners to include their own customizable overlay links on their YouTube videos for the first time.  Note this is different than the overlays which content owners could previously opt to place on their videos that allowed YouTube to target which links appeared.  The big disadvantage of that program for online retailers was that e-commerce companies don’t benefit by allowing 3rd parties to advertise in their videos – the last thing anyone wants is to use a video that consumed precious resources to produce or acquire to drive traffic to a competing site.  So from the perspective of video commerce, this move by YouTube was not insignificant.

Why this move by YouTube is good for video commerce:

– It shows that YouTube is willing to provide additional control to content owners that post to YouTube, including e-commerce retailers.  YouTube is willing to accept the risk of potential lost traffic to its own properties (well – kind of – see below).  That’s an amazingly ballsy move for a media company to take.

– It provides online retailers with a much more effective way of driving traffic to their sites when using YouTube (previously, the primary/only way that a content owner could drive traffic to external sites was by including a link in the “More Info” section at the upper right-hand corner of YouTube pages).  Very few viewers on YouTube actually read the “more info” section, but it’s hard to avoid an overlay popping up at you right in the video player (see the previous post: Effective Trigger Design for Interactive Video Commerce).

Why the YouTube move isn’t all roses for e-commerce, and might not mean anything to you:

– The service is only available to videos placed in YouTube’s promoted video program ($).  If you’re not participating in the program, either pony up or kiss your dreams of controllable interactive overlays in your YouTube videos good-bye.

– It doesn’t solve the branding issue marketers have with YouTube.  Branded YouTube channels can cost in the range of $100K – $300K and unbranded channels do not provide enough control over functionality or look and feel to satisfy enterprise e-commerce marketers, or even smaller mid-tier marketers that value their brand online.  Many marketers seek YouTube for the traffic (it is the world’s second largest search engine, after all), but turning over all commenting, SEO, branding, and integration potential to YouTube is a hefty price to pay, even without the added cost of the branded channels).

Still, the drawbacks may not be especially daunting, especially for e-commerce firms that already pay a pretty penny to Google and who may be able to strike special deals with YouTube to move some of that spend to video.  In all, this move is a great move for the future of video commerce and as video commerce professionals we should all be thankful YouTube is moving in this direction.

Until next time – Happy Selling!

P.S.  You might also want to check out my latest post on commercevideos.com – an assessment of Buy.com’s video program.  Enjoy!