Youtube Watching VideoSource: Alex Dobie / Android Central

What you need to know

  • Google appears to be testing adding integrated shopping links to its videos.
  • The program is in a pilot stage now, with a limited number of creators participating.
  • Viewers in the U.S. may come across these shopping links on Android, iOS, and the web.

According to a report today from Engadget, YouTube appears to be testing a pilot program for inserting shopping links in the videos of some of its popular content creators. Participating channels will be able to put a shopping bag-shaped link on their videos, which will lead viewers to a list of featured items in the video that they can then purchase via embedded links. The links may also lead viewers to other videos on YouTube related to the products in question, resulting in even more engagement as they spiral down the rabbit hole of available content.

The testing is currently being conducted in the U.S. only on the web and on Android and iOS devices, but presumably, it will roll out more widely later this year if it proves successful. 2020 was a turbulent year for YouTube and the world at large, and many have argued that the company has bigger issues to contend with than just finding more ways to monetize its platform. Preventing misinformation, bullying, and other forms of discrimination seems like better uses of YouTube's time and money.

Imagine buying the latest phone that Hayato or Alex are reviewing on Android Central's YouTube channel.

While many may find these kinds of commerce integrations intrusive, others may find them welcome and helpful. The shopping links have the potential to be a win-win-win for creators, consumers, and YouTube itself. Just imagine watching an Android Central video and hearing Hayato Huseman or Alex Dobie talking about what microphone or camera they use for filming or the best Android phone they've been testing, and then having easy, one-click access to purchase the same equipment? The same applies to popular fashion and makeup channels, gaming streamers, or even cooking channels.

Integrated shopping features like this have already found their way into popular social media apps such as Facebook and Instagram. They are even working their way into messaging platforms like WhatsApp. With the rise in influencer marketing over the past several years, it's a wonder it has taken YouTube this long to implement such a feature.