YouTube to Promote Links Between User Videos and Retailers

YouTube is debuting shopping ads that expand the ability to link to retailer’s websites from user-generated videos. The Google-owned company has already let advertisers link from their YouTube videos to their own websites. But now, anyone who shoots a YouTube video can opt in to a program that will create links to retailer websites for products highlighted in videos. The new feature is a response to the growing trend of user-generated product reviews and tutorials, and also adds shopping to the video-centric site.

The New York Times notes that, “highly trafficked websites and social networking services increasingly fashion themselves into shopping hubs,” pointing out that Pinterest and Instagram both added “buy buttons” and that Google itself is attempting to become a shopping destination, “in an increasingly direct challenge to Amazon.”

youtubeNYT also explains that the effort comes as a time when “Google struggles to turn the site’s more than a billion users, and its near-ubiquitous presence on the Web, into profits.”

YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki reports that viewership for product-related YouTube videos increased 40 percent last year. For video owners who have products related to YouTube ads, the company will display an icon in the top-right corner, which, when clicked, shows images and prices of the featured products and a link to the retailer’s website.

YouTube matches ads and videos based on the video’s content and audience. The new service will be offered to AdWords clients in the fall.

YouTube’s previous experience in e-commerce didn’t take off as well as was hoped. In 2013, the company invited advertisers to set up channels where they could mix video content and links to product pages on their own channels. One such channel, for Unilever’s Tresemmé hair care brand, only garnered 22,000 subscribers.