Sophie Onikul, head of communications at eBay Australia, told Inside Retail that the business has noticed a direct correlation between the shows consumers are watching and the purchases at checkout.
“We’re seeing [trending TV shows] translate directly into shopping habits with purchases over the last 12 months heavily influenced by what people are watching. As the place where 2 in 3 Aussies shop, eBay is a cultural barometer – if it’s trending in Australia, it’s trending on eBay,” Onikul said.
Among the latest series to capture consumer attention is Bridgerton – a Regency drama detailing the many scandals of London’s debutante season.
In the first 28 days since its launch, on Christmas Day 2020, a record 82 million households around the world chose to watch Bridgerton, making it the No. 1 show in the streaming giant’s 23-year history.
And while viewers absorbed the thrills and frills of this period drama, retailers started to feel an impact.
In the days following the premiere, eBay Australia witnessed a 375 per cent increase in tiara sales; shawl sales increased by 124 per cent, feather headpiece sales rose 72 per cent, and corset sales increased by 31 per cent.
The Bridgeton-effect even extended to bedding, with sales of vintage Park Avenue Medallion bedding rising 195 per cent in the first few days after launch.
Given the TV drama is based on a series of novels by Julia Quinn, it was no surprise then that consumers wanted to go straight to the source, sending sales of these books skyrocketing by 2033 per cent.
The Queen’s Gambit, another period drama which tells the story of a masterful chess player, had a steadier rise in popularity since its release in October. In the month following its Netflix release eBay saw chess sets in high demand.
“While we were already seeing a resurgence of traditional activities due to lockdowns, it was Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit that took Aussies’ love of chess to a new level. In the month following the show’s release, eBay saw sales of chess sets up 110 per cent,” Onikul said.
The retail response to trending TV stretches back to April 2020, when a number of major shows hit screens. Following the return of Lego Masters that month, three Lego sets were sold every minute on eBay during the premiere. In the 24 hours following the show, Australians spent $150,000 on LEGO on the platform.
Also in April, Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance pulled in a 485 per cent increase in sales of Chicago Bulls merchandise, and searches for “Jordan” were up 180 per cent and trending on the site. And Connell, the Irish heartthrob in complicated love story Normal People, sent sales of silver curb chains rocketing by 209 per cent on the platform just two days after the show launched on Stan.
Are you still watching?
Jana Bowden, an expert in consumer psychology and consumer engagement at Macquarie University Business School, said that one of the most marked changes during the pandemic is how consumers are accessing information, and what sort of information they are accessing.
“Our media consumption has doubled.We are literally hooked on content,” she told Inside Retail.
According to US study from Global Verify, consumers are now spending 40 per cent of their waking life on surfing media, averaging 6 hours and 59 minutes online each day.
“We are being shaped and influenced by the media that we are consuming. We are increasingly taking our cues from what we see in shows,” Bowden said.
“Even pre-Covid 56 per cent of consumers [study by GFK] cited TV as the most important driver of their awareness about a product/service. During Covid, content has really proved that it is king.
Awareness over advertising
Bowden believes that consumers have become cynical and sceptical towards traditional advertising and are resistant to overt marketing strategies where they are being told what they should do and how they should do it.
“Content flies under that radar. It directly influences consumer decision making by cutting down consumer discovery and the search-purchase journey,” she said.
“Popular shows with huge, vocal fan bases provide consumers with social proof … These shows act as signifiers – they signal to consumers what is cool. They create awareness and put the brands and products on consumers radars by showing them what is out there.”
Importantly, Jana pointed out, they show consumers how those brands and products can slot into their world like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle.
“They are the ultimate subconscious shaper of consumer perceptions.
“That’s the power of identity marketing and identity loyalty. At the very base of consumer behaviour is the need to belong, to feel connected, and to identify whether it be with someone, or something. That is the ultimate driver of all purchase behaviour.”
Capitalising on content
According to Of.com, viewing of streaming services was up 71 per cent yoy in 2020, and Bowden believes this astronomical lift spells a major opportunity for retailers.
“Consumers who had never viewed used streaming services before literally switched on to services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ to entertain themselves and their families. Come 2021 we now have 17.3 million Australians (82.1 per cent) watching subscription TV which is up 16.2 per cent from early 2020. It’s a huge marketing opportunity and it leads to sales conversion,” she said.
A sentiment echoed by eBay’s Sophie Onikul, who believes that online businesses should stay informed about the latest trending items in order to take advantage of the opportunity.
Sellers on the platform with a store subscription have free access to the a research dashboard that shares exclusive insights on trending products.
“The dashboard uses recent eBay supply, demand and pricing data to help retailers determine what to sell, when to sell it and at what price,” Onikul explained. “It’s also an effective way to research what competitors are doing and how they’re doing it.”