Instagram may be giving up on some of its video shopping features, but YouTube is adding more.
At VidCon from June 21-24, the platform’s YouTube Drop Shop is taking place with a star-studded lineup of participants including Allyiah Gainer (@AllyiahsFace; 772,000 YouTube subscribers), Cassey Ho (@Blogilates, 8.6 million subscribers), Christen Dominique (@christendominique, 4.5 million subscribers), Sydney Morgan (@sydneymorgan, 5 million subscribers) and several undisclosed guests. The event comes as YouTube has been unveiling new shopping-related influencer monetization features over the past year.
On June 14, YouTube announced the official launch of its affiliate program for any creator with 20,000 subscribers or more. Bridget Dolan, the head of shopping content partnerships at YouTube, said beta tests of the program have been “going really well,” with retailers including Sephora and Ulta Beauty since the fourth quarter of last year. The platform has also been hyping up its “Shoppable Shorts” feature that has been adopted by brands such as Fenty Beauty and Glossier. Shoppable Shorts launched in November 2022.
The shopping experience at the Drop Shop will revolve around four major areas where attendees can immerse themselves and interact with products. Live drops will occur throughout each day, with different creators presenting their merchandise. As attendees approach the experience, they will encounter “Slay-TMs,” which function like ATMs, dispensing virtual currency known as “Slay Bucks.” This currency can be used to purchase real products available at the Drop Shop. Every product in the Drop Shop will have a QR code linking to a video of a creator talking about that product. Fans can use their Slay Bucks to redeem one product in the Drop Shop, and purchase any additional drops online with real money. Some products will be part of surprise drops, creating an element of anticipation and discovery.
Morgan, a beauty influencer, will use the event to sell magic makeup towels featuring her logo, as well as her new lip gloss line.
“I have used shoppable YouTube Shorts and affiliate marketing. What I love about it is that it allows my fans to see what I actually use in an organic manner and easily purchase. The feature is so easy to use, and I can’t wait for more brands to get on board,” said Morgan via email.
Beauty is a key category for YouTube’s shopping features development, as the platform began sponsoring its annual YouTube Beauty Festival over the last two years.
Beauty is “inherently shoppable,” with makeup tutorials serving as the “most demonstrative” form of shopping content, said Dolan.
Dolan revealed some of the notable brands participating in the Drop Shop, including Ole Henrickson, Glossier, MAC, NuFace and Fenty Beauty. This diverse lineup spans multiple categories, including beauty, fashion and technology.
YouTube is betting on all forms of social shopping, even at a time when Instagram gave up on its livestream shopping feature earlier this year, as well as its shopping tab. According to a report by TechCrunch, some livestream shopping tests yielded zero sales, causing Meta to cut the feature as part of its “year of efficiency.”
“We’re quite bullish that there’s a place for and Shorts and live for shopping,” said Dolan.
Dolan emphasized that while affiliate programs are not new and have existed for decades, YouTube sought to disrupt the conventional approach by providing a more visual and seamless experience for creators and viewers. Historically, creators would mention products they love in their videos and direct viewers to check the links in the description. However, this method often led to issues such as products being out of stock or viewers finding it cumbersome to navigate away from the video to access the desired information.
To overcome these challenges, YouTube’s revamped affiliate program introduces a “view products” button that allows viewers to access a panel within the video itself. This panel displays product images, prices and retailers where they can be purchased, eliminating the need for viewers to leave the video and search elsewhere.
Affiliate links may be more feasible as a social shopping format than in-app checkout, according to Dolan. “We found that our viewers wanted to go to the website; they have loyalty points. They want to see other products to add to their basket and get free shipping.”