Google Expands into eCommerce, Allows Product Tags in YouTube Videos

Kelsey Formost

16 Nov 2020 · 2 min read


Google has invited a select group of YouTube creators to test new technology that allows them to tag shoppable products in their videos. This new feature previews how the social media powerhouse will be venturing even further into the ever-expanding eCommerce frontier.

2020 has provided the perfect backdrop for an accelerated shift from in-person shopping to eCommerce for all demographics. Without the ability to test and preview products in person, trusted influencers are bridging the gap for consumers, giving feedback, reviewing products, and making purchasing recommendations for their highly-engaged audiences.

Now, influencers have extra incentive to post product reviews: making commissions directly through the videos they create. With this new technology, creators will be able to tag and track their sales, making attribution easier and clearer for any future brand partnerships.

Keeping audiences on platform

The real genius of this update is that it will keep engaged audiences on YouTube’s platform rather than driving them onto another shopping site.

YouTube has always been a retail giant, driving more sales than almost any other platform. Previously, creators had to set up multiple affiliate links with third-party retailers and send their audiences off YouTube’s platform in order to complete a purchase. Now, rather than needing to link out to Amazon or other eCommerce provider in their video’s caption, creators will now have the option to tag the products they’re describing or reviewing within the video itself.

Without having to click away to another window, there’s a much greater likelihood that audience members’ channel watch time will increase along with their purchases.

Catching up to Facebook

When it comes to on-platform eCommerce, Facebook is already ahead of the game, with all its partner apps set up to be highly shoppable.

Earlier this year, Facebook accelerated the release of ‘Shops’, a feature that allows small business owners to list products for sale on both Facebook and Instagram. Just this week, Instagram updated their home screen to include a not-at-all-subtle shopping tab, clearly indicating their intention to lean into their new foray into eCommerce.

Even though Facebook and Shopify got there first, YouTube’s new shoppable videos update will no doubt cut into other social platforms’ eCommerce traffic and profits.

The (literal) million-dollar question

The biggest question creators are asking themselves right now is: how will YouTube make money from this update?

At the moment it’s unclear how YouTube (and its parent company Google) will benefit financially from this new shoppable videos update. If we look to other platforms for hints, the trajectory is still unclear; Facebook doesn’t charge its users to create a shop and list products either...for now. (Though many have speculated this will change after wider user adoption).

Some are anticipating the answer may come in the form of upgraded Channel Subscriptions. The popularity of subscriptions has grown immensely among creators as it allows creators to free themselves from relying on disruptive advertising for the majority of their income.

eCommerce is King; no matter which platform you’re on

One thing is abundantly clear: all the major social platforms are investing in eCommerce technology, indicating anticipation that the consumer spending habits formed during 2020’s pandemic economy will stick after in-person business restrictions are lifted.

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