Google Shoppable Hangouts: Retail Comes Full Circle

Shoppable Hangouts Are Coming Soon! (Still in Beta)

Google recently announced a new Hangouts feature that has got me just a little bit excited. “Shoppable Hangouts” as they are being dubbed, enable online retailers to showcase a selection of their products live while the audience have the opportunity to buy them right there within the Hangout.

This quick video will give you an idea of what we’re talking about here…

In essence, Shoppable Hangouts work like normal Hangouts in that it gives businesses and entrepreneurs a chance to converse directly with a chosen selection of customers (although many more can watch live) akin to shopkeepers of old – which is somewhat lost in this day and age.

The difference is that there will be an interactive panel on the right hand side showing up to 3 different product lines or categories, each with 5 or so clickable product images that take the audience through to the retailer’s e-Commerce site to complete the transaction.

Note: Transactions are NOT completed through the Hangouts platform although I believe there is scope to integrate with Google Wallet for seamless purchases.

This twist on social shopping/social commerce has all sorts of potential for retailers, entertainers and even savvy individuals. From a retailer point of view, they can now broadcast their own version of QVC or Home Shopping Network – a TV show just for them and their products!

Shop the Hangout

While SHO’s are a perfect fit for fashion (as illustrated in the video examples), tech brands and retailers of ‘complicated’ products will also thrive as it really gives them the opportunity to get into the nitty-gritty details of their products that is often difficult to convey with words and pictures on standard commerce sites. Time will tell how other niches develop and use this exciting platform.

But you don’t need to be a big, established retailer to take advantage of this. For instance…

  • An up-and-coming musician might broadcast gigs whilst simultaneously selling their CDs, MP3s and merch – the audience could even choose the setlist and request songs!
  • An author could host an AMA or a reading while promoting their book
  • A non-profit could host a star-studded telethon (or Hangout-athon) while taking donations
  • …and so many more ideas!

Shoppable Hangouts even have the potential to turn Helpout-style instructional broadcasts into a way individuals could sell products on behalf of retailers. For instance, a chef could take a budding cooking students through a recipe while simultaneously selling the ingredients and cookware needed to cook the meal on behalf of a retailer(s) in exchange for an affiliate fee.

While this feature hasn’t been announced, this could be a great avenue for affiliate marketers and presenters to monetise their shows.

Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting and Ronnie Bincer, “The Hangout Helper” recently ran a Hangout with Google’s Ria Tobaccowala in which they discussed Shoppable Hangouts at length with some great insights. Catch the replay here…

For those of you without 56mins to spare here is a quick overview of some of the ideas and initial information to come out of the hangout…

The Who/What/When/Where/Hows

When will Shoppable Hangouts be available?
It is still in Beta testing mode. There is no indication of a public release date yet.

Can I still buy the products through the Hangout if I watch on YouTube at a later date?
No – This functionality is currently only available in the native Google+ ecosystem. However, you can add annotations and links to your video once published to YouTube to capture ongoing sales.

As a retailer, what do I need to set up to conduct a Shoppable Hangout?
Simply an e-Commerce site with payment functionality. The hangout simply hosts the product links, all transactions are conducted through your website.

How much product content can you display within the Shoppable Hangout?
Only the product image will be displayed. There are currently no plans to integrate any rich content such as product reviews, descriptions and specifications but the image links will take customers through to your site with all this extra info.

Can retailers chop and change products showcased during a hangout?
Yes – the 5 displayed products can be substituted on the fly. However, the 3 categories/lines are set for the hangout in advance.

Do people have to be signed into Google+ to watch/buy?
No – which means the link to the Hangout can easily be shared among friends and associates with minimal disruption.

Will there be any Analytical data associated with these Shoppable Hangouts?
Yes – Retailers will likely be able to see click-through and conversion data among other things

Can I see a real example of a Shoppable Hangout?
Yes – Run a quick search in YouTube right now to see how selected “beta” tester retailers are using Shoppable Hangouts

How can I use the integrate “Live Social Media” into my sales strategy?
Well, there are potentially lots of ways. For instance you could display real-time social proof data on your site (e.g. “12 people are viewing this product / Only 4 left in stock” or “4 customers have purchased [PRODUCT] in the last hour…”).

Additionally you could run exclusive deals for participants during the hangout, for instance, “If we get 50 shares of [Product] we will cut 30% off the selling price today!”

Will retailers have to pay a fee for any products sold during a Shoppable Hangout?
No – Google currently have no plans to charge retailers yet.

So there you have it, another convincing reason why businesses should be using the features of Google Plus. Here is a quick recap…

Key Takeaways

  • Ecommerce stores can now run their own shopping channels like QVC!
  • Retailers can get a better understanding of how their customers tick and what they like by directly interacting with them
  • Releasing a new product line? Google Shoppable Hangouts could be the perfect platform to launch and promote your latest products to an exclusive set of customers

If you are interested to build a grounding on this game-changing platform early, why not get in touch – We don’t beat around the bush, we will get you up and running with the right strategy and understanding in no time!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider “tipping” the author with a +1, Tweet or Like! – Thanks.


Rick Eliason

Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

Rick is Reload's most senior SEO expert, and started his digital marketing journey way back in 2007 as an in-house online marketing executive. Now with over three years under his belt at Reload Digital, he handles search and conversion campaigns for a wide range of clients from e-commerce and start-ups to large service-based businesses and not-for-profits.