Merged Channel Part Two: Amazon-Tivo Deal

When Amazon.com and Tivo on Tuesday (July 22) said they would be selling E-Commerce merchandise directly from Tivo screens, it was the most visible sign yet of an imminent radical change in merged channel. Move over mobile, call center, catalog, in-store and online: Make Room For TV.

Deals like the Amazon-Tivo arrangement will present context-relevant ads to appear right alongside—or embedded within—various entertainment and information shows. For advertisers, this is merely the next logical step following obvious product placement in entertainment shows. ("Gosh, Grandma, what a large Apple logo you have!")

For retailers, though, it's a way of getting that profitable E-Commerce site somewhere other than on a PC or on a smartphone.

Evan Young is the director of broadband services at Tivo and he tried offering an example of how this effort might work.

"When you get to the end of the show, if you recorded it on your Tivo, you're presented with the delete screen. At that time, we can present relevant products to you based on what we know about the program," Young said. "So if Bruce Willis and U2 were the guests, we could say, ‘Hey, would you like to buy Bruce Willis movies on DVD or CDs from U2?' Those are things we know about because we have program guide information of who's in it."

Young compared the Amazon effort to Google. "It's all automated, very much in a similar way that if you put Google AdWords on your page, we'll try to place ads in context on the delete screen. We try to place products in context, based on what we know about the show. So if you just finished watching 24, we'll ask, 'Would you like to buy the previous season of 24 or the 24 soundtrack?'"

Young then tried to bring an example closer to the heart of Amazon. "Most people watch a show, like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and they'll see a guest who's hawking a book. They think 'Yeah, I might wanna buy that,' but if it's late and the PC's in the next room, they'll probably forget about buying it," he said. "We really think that we are connecting that impulse to purchase with the actual purchase. We hope that we are kind of connecting the dots from what otherwise would've been a sale that wouldn't happen, or inspiring people to purchase something because it's easy."

This is certainly not the first attempt at merging E-Commerce with video. An interesting attempt is from an outfit called Watch N Buy, where they have a demo video that allows consumers to click directly on something on a character in the video (such as earrings or a watch a character is wearing or a microwave on the counter in the set) and see price, availability and other details, along with the Add To Shopping Cart button.

This version of E-Commerce can go both ways. Manufacturers can try and place their images in a TV program and then make it easy to buy, or a comprehensive retailer can find existing items that they want to sell and arrange for the links.

But the implications for all of this to an IT executive are staggering. What does this mean for CRM or for data-in-aggregate collection? This further makes the argument for true merged channel policies, as keeping channels separate gets sillier.

For example, IT execs today have to debate whether an in-store purchase made through a smartphone should be rung up as an in-store purchase (the customer was indeed in the store at the time), an online purchase (the cell phone was merely an interface to the chain's E-Commerce site) or a mobile purchase, assuming that merchant has created a mobile unit with its own management and incentive plans.

But if the morphing madness of mobile purchases isn't enough to push retailers to merged channel, maybe the addition of the television set will do it.

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