Fifteen years ago, television executives fantasized about ways to let viewers tune into “Friends” and buy Jennifer Aniston’s dress with a single click of their remotes. Although that kind of interactivity has yet to come to a 50-inch flat screen in any meaningful fashion, it’s arriving online in a big way, and retail giant Target is committed to leading the charge.
Earlier this month, Target presented four brief episodes of a short film called “Falling for You” starring Kristen Bell, Nia Long, and Zachary Abel. Why would Target go to the trouble and expense of producing an online movie rather than simply cranking out a few new commercials? Because this particular movie was “shoppable.”
As viewers watched the movie, more than 100 of the fashion, beauty, and household items they saw were simultaneously displayed off to the side of the viewing screen. With a single click by the viewer, the item became a “favorite,” displayed at the bottom of the screen in a Pinterest-like grid format. From there, choosing sizes and paying was a breeze, all without having to leave the video player to go to a checkout screen. Shoppers could also share their finds with friends via the usual social media avenues of Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. It’s not as if the products were placed in the movie. It’s more like the movie was placed around the products.
“Target’s goal in creating ‘Falling for You’ was to find a cast and crew that could bring this story to life and that our guests could relate to,” says Target spokesman Evan Miller. “Emmy Award-nominated screenwriter Semi Shallas and Emmy Award-winning director of ‘Mad Men’ Phil Abraham played a pivotal role in driving the vision behind the movie and script. We’re pleased with the chemistry between the cast and crew, and very happy with how the finished product came together.”
Target worked with ad agency Space150 on the overall shoppable film concept and storyline, and turned to digital marketing agency Olson to create the digital components of the film. The project took approximately six months from start to finish. Target, which posts $70 billion in sales annually, won’t comment on the cost of the production, but it’s obvious it was an expensive effort and not the sort of thing that a much smaller business could replicate easily.
Is the shoppable film innovative enough?
Although “Falling for You” has certainly generated a significant amount of interest among retail marketers, Maureen Costello, executive in charge of emerging platform strategies at Little Cannonballs, isn’t totally dazzled.
“Target can afford to produce this kind of Hollywood effort, but even for them, I don’t think the benefits justify the cost,” Costello says. “I believe they would better serve their customers and their bottom line by extending this experience across all stops on the customer’s shopping journey. That would create a buying cycle that could start anywhere and end anywhere, from online to in-store.”
What can smaller businesses do? “The ability to click through to a purchase portal isn’t new for online business, nor is it difficult to create,” says Costello, but a full-blown interactive shopping production like “Falling for You” that blends video, social media, and e-commerce can’t be created off the shelf, at least not yet.
“The way towards creating something that’s less cost-prohibitive for smaller businesses is to have a standard application that businesses can customize; sort of like what a ‘Vimeo for Retail’ or something similar might be,” says Costello. “But that’s only part of it. The really hard—and potentially expensive—part for small businesses is to create content that users will want to consume.”
After all, if the movie is boring, shoppers won’t stick around long enough to shop.
Will “Falling for You” Get a Sequel?
Of course, no business large or small will want to emulate a losing strategy, so the big question is whether or not viewers of the film actually shopped. For the moment, at least, Target won’t say.
“We don’t have any specific metrics to share just yet, but we can tell you that, as a retailer, we are always exploring new ways to amplify the shopping experience for our guests,” says Miller. “Our goal was to cross-engage guests with a compelling shopping and entertainment experience, and we believe we were successful in doing that.”
Target hasn’t outlined any plans to replicate the effort—perhaps in time for the holidays—but hasn’t ruled it out either.
To date, a few high-end brands such as Gucci, David Yurman, and Neiman Marcus have also created shoppable videos, and Target has experimented with shoppable ads before, as well, most notably on a campaign for Missoni clothing.
“Not all consumers are ready to shop this way, but that shouldn’t stop the technology push towards new solutions, because consumers ultimately will shop this way,” says Costello. “More and more customers are shopping online and through connected devices. In the future, the buying cycle will be a seamless journey for those customers from an in-store experience, to their smartphones, to their living rooms, but it will take more innovation to get us there.”