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YouTube, Too, Is Reportedly Turning Into a Mall

Gizmodo logo Gizmodo 10/9/2020 Whitney Kimball
a close up of a sign © Image: Olivier Douliery (Getty Images)

The retail apocalypse is here, and the future looks like an antitrust hearing. Not to be outdone by Facebook and Instagram—the now-one-stop-shop for all forms of social media, and also a literal shop—Google, too, is coming for Jeff Bezos’s filthy, unfathomable riches with in-platform e-commerce. Soon after Instagram announced that it’s adding a store and direct checkout feature for its video platforms IGTV and Reels, YouTube confirmed to Bloomberg that it’s plotting something similar by attaching digital merch stands to its video library.

Gizmodo was unable to immediately reach YouTube for comment, and it’s unclear what this new spate of features will look like. Maybe hovering over JoJo Siwa’s hair could point users to a store of bows and shampoos? Maybe a “shop now” label beneath videos brings up a product menu, like YouTube’s ad storefronts? Let us know if you’ve spotted it; the company said it’s already testing some version of these tools on select channels.

Mining influencer vlogs seems to be a logical step now for the video repository. The future of ad spending, especially in retail and travel, is uncertain, but sponcon dollars are flowing, and YouTube seems like a safe place for Google to invest. Despite Alphabet’s unprecedented quarter-over-quarter revenue drop this year, YouTube’s ad revenue still rose. Connecting a shopping cart to a beauty vlogger, for example, also might entice brands, which have typically utilized influencer marketing for brand awareness moreso than direct purchases.

By most accounts, tech giants are looking at a prospective e-commerce gold rush. Deutsche Bank estimated in April that Instagram’s “checkout” feature could bring in $10 billion in 2021. The in-app store might explain why WalMart, which has long lagged behind Amazon tech-wise, wanted a piece of TikTok in order to potentially outflank its biggest competitor on at least one ecommerce front.

If Google, too, wants Bezos’s scalp, it might have to smooth out some eternal defects, like clunky interfaces (see TikTok for a counter-example) and it will need to play a very fast round of catch-up on warehousing and logistics, lessons seemingly not learned from years of unreturned investment in Google Shopping.

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