By: Pradeep Singh | Delivery Head, Middle East, BORN Group

In June of this year, football great Lionel Messi joined Inter Miami and Major League Soccer, America’s top league, giving American soccer a much-needed boost in terms of visibility and expanding Messi’s global fan base even further. And Messi’s sponsor, Adidas, was ecstatic. According to the New York Times: “Within a couple of days of Messi’s announcement, the company had received almost 500,000 requests from stores and suppliers for jerseys in Miami’s soft, electric pink.”

Messi was already world-famous, of course, but his example demonstrates how quickly demand for a product can explode – and the story of Messi’s jersey represents an opportunity for all kinds of online content providers. People see something – Messi’s jersey, one of Barbie’s outfits, or a piece of jewelry on a major movie star – and they want it. And if the opportunity is there, they will buy it.

The question becomes: How do you give them that opportunity?

Embedded Commerce for Selling Merch

One answer is embedded commerce. Note that I’m not talking here about social media marketing or social commerce, where you’re creating content designed explicitly to sell a product immediately or down the line. Instead, in embedded commerce, the product is part of the story but not the story itself or even the centerpiece of the story.

For example, many James Bond movies feature the titular character wearing an Omega Seamaster watch. It’s essential for Bond’s character to have a luxury watch, but the film isn’t about the watch. However, that watch becomes a powerful embedded commerce opportunity. Fans see it, think it’s cool, and some will want to buy it. Why not give them that opportunity then and there? (Product placement, where companies are willing to pay content creators to use their products as part of the story’s background, is the precursor to embedded commerce.)

Of course, an engaged potential consumer may pause the video, Google the product, and start the research and buying process. But why not make it easy for them?

It might work like this: The consumer sees the product and pauses the video by clicking directly on the watch on the screen. This could let the user save the video image to a personal directory for later shopping. Or, an embedded commerce system could include a back-end plug-in to automatically route that expression of interest to the watch company, a licensed dealer, or a marketplace of licensed dealers and take the viewer directly to a product detail page with an opportunity to buy. Embedded commerce offers new revenue opportunities to multiple value chain links, including the content creator, the streaming or online service provider, and, of course, the manufacturer and its intermediaries.

The possibilities are truly immense. You could use direct links to specific products, like the Omega Seamaster. Or you could offer similar products at a range of price points to target a broader range of potential customers.

Naturally, some content creators won’t want to dilute the power of their content offerings with advertising or e-commerce, and some brands may not eagerly embrace this kind of sales channel. But just as product placement is a well-accepted reality for all kinds of content, turning content into shoppable content may come to be equally acceptable for everything from the obvious – like impulse purchases for clothing, cosmetics, and accessories – to more substantial sales possibilities. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think that embedded commerce could generate leads for big-ticket items like cars or vacation destinations.

Turning content into shoppable content requires a lot of upfront brand-related thinking and experience design. You’ll want to ensure that an embedded commerce strategy is appropriate to your brand experience as well as your go-to-market strategy. Embedded commerce also requires a lot of back-end technology, such as “you only look once” real-time object detection system, for example, with artificial intelligence-driven video analytics to address matching and mapping. Intelligent e-commerce/referral systems will be required to route requests to the proper jurisdiction or preferred suppliers.

When Messi joined Inter Miami, demand skyrocketed for his jersey. Imagine just how many jerseys Adidas might sell if they embraced an embedded commerce strategy in every match that streams online.