Maggie Zhang Talks TV’s Next Big Act: Shoppability

Sellwin is a consulting group at Dentsu that provides holistic Amazon strategy for clients. We work in tandem with teams spanning Dentsu’s entire agency portfolio, calling on experts across the network to help us provide custom-built solutions for each unique client ask. One of those experts is problem-solver, storyteller, and video expert Maggie Zhang.  

Maggie is EVP of Video Research & Insights at Dentsu and the head of Dentsu’s future-forward Video Innovation Council. The VIC is laser-focused on emerging video technologies and how they can be leveraged to create smarter, faster, and more collaborative solutions for clients. I recently sat down with Maggie to talk about shoppable video formats: what they are, how they are being used, where this space is headed, and how agencies, clients, and publishers can innovate in the space together.  

Video Collapses the Purchase Funnel 

“Consumers have spoken very loudly about how they want to watch TV: wherever and whenever they want,” Maggie said in an op-ed for AdExchanger earlier this year. The changing landscape around how audiences consume television and video content means that advertisers and publishers are approaching it differently, too. Video content has now moved beyond simply brand-building to also facilitate engagement, interaction, and sales.  

What exactly is “shoppable video”? Simply put, any video content or ad that directly triggers actions that lead to purchase. Brands want to remove friction from the purchasing process, and if consumers are ready to buy a product, they want to provide them with every opportunity. You may recognize these familiar CTAs: “Visit brand website,” or “download the app now,” or “place item in cart,” or “enter email for offer.” These prompts come to consumers during a moment of curiosity and offer a better shopping experience with relevant, personalized content.  

“Shoppable video isn’t necessarily about directly transacting within the video content or ads,” Maggie explained to me. “It’s more about shortening and accelerating the purchase journey with more deterministic assurance.” An example she offered is a video that prompts you to add an item to your cart or your shopping list. “Consumers would still need to take action to complete the purchase, but the shoppable video content has brought them several steps closer.”  

The Amazon Advantage 

The Amazon advantage is their massive amount of first party shopper data. Maggie was particularly keen on the testing opportunity for endemic advertisers, who can both target and measure their ad campaigns using this data. 

“The clear connection to a customer’s purchase journey is exactly what has made social video ad placements so successful,” Maggie explained. “With traditional linear TV and other non-linear video platforms, we are still trying to link the exposure of the ad to the conversion of sales.”  

Although Amazon’s video ad units are still very much in their beginning stages, the company is in a unique position as both the publisher who owns both the entertainment streaming platform and the marketplace where consumers purchase goods. Marketers want definitive proof of ad performance, and Amazon’s ability to map the entire consumer purchase journey — from seeing the ad to buying the product — may offer just that. 

Linking Voice Skills to Video 

As leader of video research and insights at Dentsu, Maggie sees voice skills as a complement to enhance a client’s video strategy rather than a marketing tool to be used in isolation. “Voice can be an amazing link to make video – especially big-screen video like linear and OTT – more interactive, more engaging, and more action-oriented.”  

This, she said, is the end goal for voice: to make television more interactive and audiences more engaged with the content on screen. “I think the way that TV is going to become cool again is through this direct linkage – be it voice, their remote or smartphone, all of which enables consumers to interact with their content on screen .” 

“Amazon’s audio ad options are really, really new,” Maggie told me, “so right now we are taking a test and learn approach.” This is a theme that seems to be true across all areas of advertising and selling on Amazon.com: It helps tremendously to be an early adopter. 

Amazon’s ethos is centered around constant innovation. Right now, shoppable video ad units on Amazon come in a few forms including OTT, in-stream, and in search, but the roster of products is sure to grow and keep evolving.  

On Innovating Together 

Maggie’s advice to clients is always to try new ad formats as they emerge in the marketplace — this way, brands can work with agency partners and publishers to provide feedback, codevelop, and refine the ad products. “Our tech partners are constantly innovating with new formats and products to expand their ad offering,” Maggie said, “and it’s our role as an agency to advocate for our clients and provide feedback about what we learn.”  

Agencies like Dentsu listen closely to each client’s individual needs and sales goals to provide marketing recommendations, but they also do the legwork of educating, vetting and testing these emerging ad products while accumulating learnings and best practices for clients. This symbiotic relationship allows agencies, media and tech partners, and clients to innovate together and co-create how the future of advertising will look.