The logo for NBCUniversal's first digital shopping cart offering.

NBCUniversal is pushing on with its delve into shoppable content as the coronavirus proves to be an unprecedented blow to retail.

The media conglomerate is soon to go live with its first online “shopping cart,” NBCUniversal Checkout, which will appear alongside certain online stories and videos that include products from brands and advertisers, allowing people to purchase products without jumping off the NBCU page they landed on. Along with NBC, the company owns Bravo, E!, Oxygen, SyFy and Telemundo, as well as online verticals for popular tv shows like, “Today.”  

“We know that most of the time when people are coming to the NBC universe they’re coming to be entertained or informed, but we also have a ton of research that shows they’re active consumers in multiple categories, though they’re not coming to NBCU to go shopping,” Josh Feldman, who heads up marketing and advertising for NBCU, said. “To allow a high-index shopper to buy without leaving the platform is a win-win for us and a brand or retailer.”

It seems to be the first time a traditional media company has launched an on-site shopping cart, and this will go live across all NBCU verticals in June, including Spanish-language Telemundo and its impending streaming service, Peacock. But NBCU has over the last year been bullish on the integration of shopping into its content and earlier this year expanded its still new “shoppable” TV offering. Evan Moore, vice president of content partnerships, said the closet thing on the market from a media company is Instagram Shopping, which similarly offers a full checkout experience for brands on its platform.

In an effort to aid brands and retailers, which have been hard hit by the economic fallout around public measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus, NBCU moved up the launch of the shopping cart to June from later this year. For the rest of 2020, it’s also waiving typical technology and cart fees, wherein a platform keeps a percentage of a total cart purchase. This will undoubtedly create some good will among potential brand partners, but also it’s likely to allow more brands — all trying to cut costs and drive sales amid the coronavirus — to participate in the new platform. 

“This was supposed to be a profitable business model, but given the times we’re in, we felt we had to do something,” Feldman said. “Long-term, this is good business for us.”

Feldman is in active talks with “a number” of brands and retailers to be part of the platform, but declined to be more specific. He did note that NBCU is not targeting any specific size or type of brand, saying the capability of the shopping cart, which on the back end simply sends purchase orders to brands for them to fulfill on their own, “gives us a really broad net to fish with.”

For now, all of the content to be integrated with the shopping cart, or Checkout, will be made in-house, either by editorial teams or by NBCU’s branded content studio. However, the company is already looking into the use of AI in order to possibly give the cart a more programmatic bent, allowing it to activate automatically whenever a shoppable product is in an article or a piece of branded content.

The shopping cart will also help to streamline NBCU’s shoppable TV expansion, which now operates more like an affiliate link service, with QR codes that have to be scanned on a mobile device and lead people directly to a brand page for purchase. 

As for how big of a business NBCU is expecting its entire shopping offering to be, Feldman demurred, but offered that conversion rates (so people actually buying products) through shoppable TV are still 30 percent higher than the industry average of roughly 2 to 3 percent.

“Check back in six months,” he said. “Hopefully it will be good news.”

For More, See:

NBC’s Shoppable TV Early Success Means Expansion Across All Networks

What Are People Shopping for During Coronavirus Lockdown?

NBC News Nixing Two Verticals As It Refocuses Digital Operations