With a Click of the Remote, Impulse Purchases
By TANZINA VEGA
Published: December 4, 2011
Giving television viewers the ability to buy products they see on their screens with a click of a remote control — say the Manolo Blahniks on Carrie Bradshaw’s feet or Ross’s sweater on “Friends” — has been talked about by advertisers for years without much success.
The products will be “contextual to what you are watching on television,” said Rachelle Zoffer, director of content acquisition and programming for FiOS TV at Verizon. “Our goal is to put things on the television that enhance the programming and create value for our subscribers.”
A small icon in the upper right corner of the screen will signal that an item is available, and with the touch of a button on a remote control, the screen will split in two, with items for purchase on the right. After setting up a user account on TVWallet.com, viewers can complete their transaction by entering their phone number and four-digit PIN.
The service will be available to nearly four million Verizon FiOS subscribers primarily in the Northeast, California, Texas and Florida, Ms. Zoffer said. Verizon will promote the service with 30-second spots during History Channel programming. She said the company had plans to include the service in other networks soon.
Mark Garner, senior vice president for distribution at A&E Networks, said the service’s success would be measured by how much consumers use it and whether they buy anything. The History Channel already has “a very healthy commerce engine” on its Web site, Mr. Garner said, and if 5 percent of the people who see the new feature make a purchase, that would be considered an initial success.
Men ages 25 to 54 make up the primary audience of the History Channel, and these men are the ones meant to be served by the new feature. In deciding which shows will add the shopping feature, Mr. Garner said: “We look at it from a network level. Which programs are more likely to have engaged customers?”
Shows on the Lifetime network like “Project Runway,” “Drop Dead Diva” and “Army Wives” may eventually adopt it, Mr. Garner said. The data collected on buyers will help the network decide “how we market, how we program, how we develop our promotions,” he said, adding that there were no plans to share that data with advertisers directly.
The brands in the introduction are optimistic about the exposure, even if results are not immediate.
“When you sell jukeboxes, turntables and old radios, you’ve got to be patient,” said Bo LeMastus, the president of Crosley Radio, whose company has been selling products through the History Channel Web site for more than a month. Mr. LeMastus said the company became interested in doing business with the History Channel after an episode of “American Pickers,” where the show’s stars came across old Crosley radios in a barn.
“This is going to take some time to develop and for the consumer to catch on,” Mr. LeMastus said. “It’s more about the long-term picture.”
It is Schwinn’s first time working with the History Channel. “There are a lot of people who are very nostalgic about Schwinn,” said Lori Peters, the company’s director of consumer activation for North America. “Now they have the opportunity to act very impulsively. Kind of like buying a memory through your TV screen.”
Those memories have the potential to be quite lucrative, according to projections provided by Mike Fitzsimmons, chief executive of Delivery Agent, the company that is providing the technology that powers the transactions.
In trials, Mr. Fitzsimmons said, the value of the average order placed by viewers was $75, which could mean $285 million in revenue in the first year if all FiOS households made one purchase during that time. “It doesn’t take much for this business to end up with too many zeros to count,” he said.