Last week, Walmart and Roku announced a deal that would allow TV viewers watching streaming via a Roku device to purchase items – including food items – using their remote.
According to the announcement, the new experience will allow customers to click on and purchase items advertised within the “moments of entertainment” (translation: during an actual show and not an explicit commercial), as well as during commercial breaks during ad-supported programming.
The new integration will allow viewers to click on a shoppable ad and proceed to checkout. The customer’s payment information will be pre-populated from Roku Pay, Roku’s payments platform, and then the customer taps “OK” on the Walmart checkout page to place the order. A Walmart purchase confirmation is emailed to the customer.
By taking shoppable commerce to the TV screen, Walmart is going beyond the shoppable integrations the company has previously done through partnerships with SideChef and Tasty. While the rise of video-centric social media platforms is blurring the lines, TV watching (including streaming) typically is a much different experience than time spent in front of our computers doing activities like online shopping.
For Roku, the move builds on an impressive ad business which saw the company garner the bulk of its $734 million in Q1 non-hardware revenue via advertising sales. The core of the company’s ad business is done via its Oneview Platform, which does ad-targeting of consumers based on their viewing behavior and allows Roku to deliver ads interspersed into shows on its own channel and via streaming partners that do have ad-supported content (like, say, Hulu) that open up ad inventory to Roku.
This deal is interesting on its own, but it becomes much more intriguing considering Roku’s recent big bet on original cooking content featuring names like Martha Stewart, Emeril Lagasse, and Christopher Kimball. That news was unveiled in May at Roku’s 2022 NewFronts when the streaming company announced co-production deals with Marquee Brands and Milk Street Studios to produce seven new streaming shows exclusively for the Roku Channel.
Why are the two deals, when considered together, much more interesting than on their own? Because while Roku can theoretically insert commerce-conversion opportunities for Walmart or other partners in ads on other streaming channels, the streaming company can go much deeper with commerce integrations on its channel where it has the full rights to the content and owns all the ad inventory.
Some of those deeper integrations might include in-show shopping moments. For example, imagine watching “Martha Cooks” or “Milk Street’s My Family Recipe” (two of the new shows on Roku TV) and seeing Martha or Christopher Kimball showing off a new holiday recipe. The Roku platform would allow a call to action overlay within the show itself where viewers could click via their remote to view the food items in the recipe, add them to a cart, and a transaction to be completed there on the spot.
While the Walmart and the new show slate are technically different deals, I would be shocked if Roku wasn’t pushing the possibilities around in-show commerce when negotiating with Martha, Emeril and Kimball. Conversely, the timing of the Walmart shoppable ad partnership is giving Roku a premium grocery partner just as the streaming company is beefing up its food and cooking content.
Longer-term, I would imagine other streaming partners like Hulu or even Netflix (which is considering ad content) would be open to enabling in-show commerce on shows on their channel via Roku’s platform. Roku has over 60 million viewers using its platform, giving it one of the largest addressable audiences in the world of streaming. If they can tie all the pieces together and bring more streamer partners on board, the company could position itself as a true TV commerce power player.