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3 Startups Making Shoppable Video a Reality

Meet the companies creating fashion videos that actually sell.

In the past month, -- an editorial website owned by LVMH -- has launched two shoppable videos. The first, March's "Mine All Mine," depicts Sadler Wells dancers performing in spring looks from brands including Rick Owens, Haider Ackermann and Kenzo. The most recent, released Wednesday, features Petit Bateau's collaboration with Finnish designer Satu Maaranen, showcasing the 2013 Hyères Festival winner's design process. (Watch it here.) While the two videos couldn't be more different in terms of content, they offer the same experience. You can click (or tap, if you're using a touchscreen) on any item in the film and it will be saved to a "boutique". By clicking on a small "Q" icon at the bottom right-hand corner, you can browse your picks. 

Both videos were designed in partnership with Cinematique, a New York-based firm that wants to make shoppable videos pretty, but also successful. "We think education and content supports commerce," says Sarah Slutsky, the company's director of brands and partnerships. So far, Cinematique's videos have averaged a 13 percent conversion rate -- a great deal higher than a banner ad could possibly deliver. "But we're not just monitoring conversion. We're looking at whether this person is sticking around from start to finish, what percent of touchable items are being clicked, and which items are being clicked on the most," Slutsky says. For instance, if a video receives 100,000 views and 70,000 of those users have clicked on a particular pink blouse, the retailer can then develop a marketing strategy to further promote that item. For a retailer like Petit Bateau, those numbers  and ideas are surely compelling.  

But it took a while to get to this place. The advent of the shoppable video has been hyped for years, but few, if any, brands have been able to get it right. Why? Because the user experience is typically not so great, and brands are reluctant to spend money on something that's, well, not so great. However, touchscreen tablets and mobile have increased the desire to be able to "shop the show" -- whether that's a runway or a television series --  which means retailers and fashion labels are taking shoppable video more seriously. That's where startups like Cinematique, who promise something better, come in. 

Another company making headway is Santa Monica, Calif.-based Fuisz Media. The firm's most lauded project to date is its partnership with the DreamWorks-owned AwesomenessTV, a YouTube channel aimed at teens. A series of Wet Seal branded videos, which ran last fall, garnered more than 300,000 views, with several items selling out. (A particular feat, given Wet Seal's well-documented struggles.)  Founder Justin Fuisz says that when there's a verbal call to action in the videos, not just a visual one, the click-through rate reaches "well over" 30 percent.

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Fuisz Media's technology works differently from Cinematique's. When you click on an item, a new window pops up that takes you to straight to the brand's e-commerce site. "We've taken an engineering-heavy approach that enables a simpler user experience," Fuisz, who just closed a round of seed funding, says. "We want it to be elegant." As he's based in Los Angeles, it's no surprise that Fuisz is a big proponent of the shoppable television series. "It's going to be huge," he says. But maybe not in the way we'd assume. "It's a no-brainer for a L'Oreal-type brand to make their own Gossip Girl-style web series. When they price it out by engagement and conversions, it's not a big investment for them." 

New York-based Clicktivated offers yet another approach. While Cinematique hides its cart of items until you click on the "Q" icon, and Fuisz has avoided it altogether, Clicktivated displays the cart right next to the video. As you click on items, they populate a strip to the right of the video. From that cart you can click through to the e-commerce sites. "It really puts the control in the hands of the consumer," says founder Chris Roebuck, who started Clicktivated in June 2011 after working on the agency side of advertising. Roebuck, who has teamed up with several major fashion brands on video campaigns -- you can peruse examples of the company's work here --  says that around 96 percent of viewers are clicking on at least one item, and that 90 percent are watching the entire video. The conversion-to-purchase rate is 7 percent on average, and "shares are through the roof."

Which way is right? While each of these firms believes they're doing something truly different -- and in some cases, they are -- there are dozens more claiming something similar. The good news is that there's room for more than one player. It will be those with the right mix of advanced technology and strong aesthetics that will win.