Google looks to convert YouTube into e-commerce hub

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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The world’s largest video streaming site YouTube is planning to introduce an eCommerce facility into its platform as pandemic has created a dip in its advertising market.

The platform has recently started to ask its content creators to use YouTube software to tag and track products presented in their videos and then the data obtained will be transferred to Google’s analytics and shopping tools.

According to sources, YouTube aims to transform its videos into a huge catalog of products that viewers can select and buy. The video streaming platform is also trying for a new partnership with Shopify Inc. to sell products through the site.

A YouTube spokesperson has confirmed that the platform is working on these features with a finite number of channels. The company stated that it is an experiment and refused to reveal further details.

“YouTube is one of the least utilized assets if they decide they want to invest in it, it’s a huge opportunity for them,” said Andy Ellwood, president of eCommerce startup Basket.

Experts say that this new proposed initiative may mark YouTube’s transition from an advertising giant into an eCommerce leader like and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

As the company declined to share much details it is not clear how YouTube is planning to generate income from these sales. However, the platform has started giving subscriptions for content creators and takes a cut of 30 percent from those payments.

The company has always focused on selling ads that divert people to other digital stores, but with the pandemic, there has been a huge decline in marketing funds especially in travel and physical retail sectors that are major Google advertisers.

Whereas the eCommerce sector witnessed a surge in sales and Google’s major rivals Facebook Inc. and it’s subsidiary Instagram profited out of online sales. The US-based e-commerce giants Amazon has seen a huge hike in its sale while Google suffered its first-ever revenue decline in the second quarter.

On a recent earnings call, Google’s Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai opined that YouTube’s most prominent category of unboxing videos can bring vast shopping opportunities.

The company has also modified its eCommerce and payments division. In July, it announced a plan to attract merchants to Google Shopping, which included cooperating with Shopify.

Last year, the streaming platform started to test an integration similar to Shopify for its content creators who can list about 12 items for sale below their videos. Product sales are YouTube’s plan to diversify its revenue for creators other than ads.

For several years Amazon and Walmart Inc. have tried shoppable videos but the retailers couldn’t experience any progress. Earlier in Douyin, a short video-platform developed by TikTok owner ByteDance in China, influencers used to live stream videos to sell products ranging from lipstick to smartphones in real-time to millions of users.