While the COVID-19 crisis has opened up a number of opportunities for home shopping and e-commerce, it has also upended operations and created a number of problems both for networks and brands.
One issue is financial: Reports from some companies show they’ve taken a fiscal hit as they’ve moved from the higher-margin merchandise featured in pre-pandemic shows to less profitable home-oriented products that are popular with viewers subject to stay-at-home orders.
In other cases, companies have had to shut down studios and use remote production technologies to create content from on-air personalities’ homes. Amazon and others have also reported supply disruptions and increased costs to protect workers and clean facilities.
Univision, for example, stopped its “Gangas & Deals” segment on Despierta America for two weeks to rethink the product line and make the segments more relevant to viewers during the pandemic, Univision Local Media senior VP of growth initiatives John Buergler said. The retooled segments have since returned to the air.
Companies also have been trying to assist with COVID-19 relief. Qurate Retail, for example, has committed $29 million to pandemic-related efforts.
Networks and e-commerce players have also been working closely with brands that face their own challenges. For instance, ABC’s Good Morning America began focusing on small businesses in early March in its “Deals & Steals” segments and, by early May, had featured more than 150 small businesses.
“Most of the businesses we’ve featured have told me definitively that our segment saved jobs by providing that much-needed shot in the arm,” said Tory Johnson, the e-commerce editor on GMA’s “Deals & Steals” features. “Some have said they could not survive without our segment.”
Others also see opportunities to work with emerging brands on their e-commerce efforts. Josh Feldman, executive VP and head of marketing and advertising creative at NBCUniversal, said the new NBCU Checkout system has the potential of being particularly appealing to smaller brands.
“It doesn’t require a traditional media schedule or for them to be traditional national TV advertisers,” he said. “It is a new business model that can work for the smallest sort of brand to the largest.”
To encourage smaller brands to participate, Feldman said, “we are waiving all of our percentage of cart fees on any piece of shoppable branded content or ShoppableTV opportunities.”
Working with smaller and emerging brands can also be beneficial to both parties, Knocking CEO Markus Reinmund said, because many of these newer brands have fascinating stories to tell.
“When content is done poorly it looks like someone is just pitching a product,” Reinmund said. “We want to sell products, but it is much more effective if you can tell a story that engages consumers about someone who had a great idea and is bringing it to the market.”