Digital Marketing Redux   //   December 1, 2023

How Home Depot is experimenting with shoppable TV content on Vizio

Home Depot is experimenting with whether it can get TV viewers to buy items via a QR code with a shoppable miniseries.

In a partnership with home entertainment brand Vizio, “Merry & Bright” is a branded content series currently featured in the rotating collection displayed on a Vizio viewer’s home screen. Hosted by Jordin Sparks of “American Idol” fame, the series has the vibe of a home makeover show with a narrative arc around a family whose home gets a holiday makeover using Home Depot merchandise. But the shoppable element comes in the form of QR codes flashed on the screen that bring the user to Home Depot’s Christmas decoration pages. 

Christine Reed, Home Depot’s director of media, said that “Merry & Bright” is the retailer’s opportunity to test an area of marketing that’s yet to become mainstream despite heavy interest from agencies and brands.

“Using a TV as a shoppable medium is a new behavior for customers,” Reed told Modern Retail. “We think it is the future, we want to lean into that.”

Insider Intelligence found in an April survey that about 57% of ad agency professionals think shoppable TV is “the next frontier,” more so than increased personalization or omnichannel ad tracking. Additionally, a survey from Samsung Ads and Kerv Interactive found that a quarter of smart TV viewers are already actively shopping while watching TV. 

The series is an example of a larger interplay between streaming TV services and brands, where shoppable content is becoming a bigger part of campaigns. Amazon is pitching its streaming opportunities to brands and experimenting; more recently it showcased shoppable QR codes during an NFL game for its Black Friday deals. Meanwhile, Roku is focused on using shoppable content — like its Action Ads offering — to lure more DTC brands into its growing ad business.

With the series about halfway through — it started Nov. 1 and will air through the end of December — it’s too soon to say how it’s performed. It’s also unclear if the long-form video will end up performing better than shorter 15 or 30 second ad spots that use QR codes. But the series appears to be performing on par with other content on the platform so far; Vizio says the conversion rate has been slightly higher than other home screen hero videos, which see an average click-through-rate of .6%.

While Reed said that there could be future shoppable videos, she said the biggest focus is learning how to “flatten the funnel,” or drive awareness of product with an easy way to make purchases. That requires a mix of storytelling and product descriptions to ensure the viewer doesn’t feel like they’re being hawked merchandise. 

“We want to make sure that we’re showing up in an unobtrusive and really authentic way,” Reed siad. 

For Vizio, “Merry & Bright” is part of a new content strategy, said its vp of branded content and sales strategy Katlyn Wilson. In addition to focusing on stronger storytelling and creating opportunities for consumer engagement, Vizio recently overhauled its operating system to better use ACR (automatic content recognition) data to help improve recommendations. Wilson said that this allows for better targeting of who to display “Merry & Bright” when they turn on their television. 

“We know what our viewers are engaging with and the kind of content that they enjoy, so we can better target on the front end the type of consumer who we think will best benefit from this type of content,” Wilson said. “It’s just a lot more thoughtful deployed, as opposed to just kind of running on a network and then hoping that the right viewer finds it.”

In addition to Vizio and Home Depot’s teams putting together the project, it was produced by Turn Card Content, and created with marketers from OMD’s The Content Collective. The shows were slated to be about 10 minutes each — long enough for a story to unfold and to include some meaty tips for the DIY-er, but not a large time commitment. And the QR codes were chosen to flash in the lower third of the screen so they weren’t obtrusive.  

“That’s one of the benefits of this new medium, is we make the rules and we can decide what best serves the needs of the Home Depot and the partnership,” Wilson said.

Liz Kressel, founder and CEO of Lizard Strategies, said that brands of all sizes are experimenting with shoppable TV content. But the area is still growing, and as many firms trim their ad budgets, something experimental isn’t always prioritized. Further, it has to be executed in a way that makes sense for the viewer to interact with. 

“You can’t assume a shopper will pause to grab their phone and scan it,” Kressel said. “Or that they’ll rewind the show if they don’t get to scan in time before the code disappears.”

In the case of “Merry & Bright,” Kressel said the QR codes that appeared on screen weren’t necessarily on screen long enough for someone to grab their phone if it wasn’t already with them. The destinations also could’ve had more specificity or provided additional engagement opportunities, she said, like unique product pages, discount codes or an email capture like decorating tips. 

But this isn’t the first time that Home Depot has toyed around with a new medium to attract and retain customers. It’s previously experimented with live-streamed workshops during the lockdown era of the pandemic, a trend that it ramped up as stores shut down. Meanwhile, the retailer still offers these free workshops on its website, focused on DIY projects and home improvement, like how to install a faucet or maximizing garage storage.

“I love that they’re experimenting,” Kressel said. “It makes sense because they’re showing people how do things, which is perfect for monetization.”