Regal Cinemas Launches Online Merchandise Store

Cineworld Group’s Regal Cinemas has launched a branded online store — The Regal Store — affording moviegoers access to movie-themed merchandise, including collectibles, food and beverage containers, fashion apparel and accessories, as well as home and office décor.

“We created the online store so our most enthusiastic guests can further showcase their passion for movies outside of the theatre,” Matt Willard, head of business development at Regal, said in a statement.

The stores opened with themed merch for Dune: Part TwoKung Fu Panda 4Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire, and Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire along with theater-branded items. Updated product drops will take place throughout the year based on release dates for higher-profile titles such as Deadpool & Wolverine and Beetlejuice Beetlejuice.

Regal Crown Club members and Unlimited subscribers receive a 20% discount on their first order.

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The e-commerce option comes as parent Cineworld emerged from bankruptcy last summer, successfully reducing their debt by $4.53 billion; raised approximately $800 million in new equity capital; and secured new debt financing in the aggregate amount of approximately $1.71 billion, including a new revolving credit facility of $250 million.

Home Video Vet Mark Gilula Launches New E-Commerce Option for Disc Sellers

Industry veteran Mark Gilula is launching an e-commerce option for content owners and distributors who want to sell their DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and 4K Ultra HDs directly to consumers.

The Stanford Media Group’s one-step solution is aimed at online sellers frustrated with the low profit potential and lack of control inherent in wholesaling to third parties — or using seller programs such as Amazon’s Seller Central/FBA program, which make most of their profit from fees.

SMG allows clients to sell their discs directly to consumers on all the major online marketplaces, including Amazon, Walmart.com, eBay and Etsy, without any of the hassles and high costs of setting up their own operations — or the cavalcade of fees, on top of the normal commission, that sellers encounter when using proprietary fulfillment services such Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA).

“Your margins are better, you’re able to collect valuable data about your customers, and, perhaps most important, you have exclusive control over your business, your product, and your advertising and marketing spend — instead of handing them over to a third party with its own agenda,” Gilula says.

The reason SMG is able to deliver such a better value proposition, according to the company, is that it requires from the seller the exclusive right to sell on these e-commerce marketplaces. This means there are no competing sales channels, which drives the price down. This also means Amazon or any other big online retailer won’t have the product and thus can’t set the price. Consumer demand determines what the price should be.

Many of the large online e-commerce sites, including Amazon and Walmart, have two very different business models, Gilula says. They sell merchandise themselves, and they allow other sellers to use their platforms to sell directly to consumers. Wholesaling to, say, Amazon and letting Amazon do all the work is certainly the easiest, but it comes at a high price. The seller effectively transfers the rights to his product to Amazon and is no longer in control. The markup is typically 50% or more, leaving the seller with less than half the retail cost paid by the customer. The seller has no say in setting the price or developing marketing materials, no control over inventory, and no customer insights, data, or relationships.

“I am happy to pay Amazon their fees for the traffic that they get — that’s no problem. But you don’t need to sell them, wholesale, to take advantage of all that traffic,” Gilula says. “A supplier loses complete control of their business, and that’s never a good thing.”

Amazon’s wholesale program, known as Vendor Central, is aimed at established brands that sell their products in bulk to Amazon. Amazon then manages the entire sales and fulfillment process, even deciding the appropriate profit margin itself.

Amazon’s Seller Central program is for sellers who want to sell their products themselves on the e-commerce giant’s marketplace. Unfortunately for sellers, Gilula says, various fees and the cost for Amazon-provided services such as warehousing and fulfillment (known as Fulfillment by Amazon, or FBA, which is used by 89% of third-party sellers) as well as mandatory advertising requirements are taking an increasingly large chunk out of their profits — to the point where seller service revenue, according to a February 2023 Marketplace Pulse study, now represents 23% of Amazon’s total revenue, or nearly $120 billion.

“The amount of fees is just mindboggling,” Gilula says. “Every time you look, it seems, there’s another fee. Amazon hasn’t raised their commission percentage in years, but that’s because they don’t have to. They make their money from fees, which go up at least a couple of times a year.”

Amazon may be the biggest online marketplace, but it’s not the only one. Walmart delivers a higher profit margin than Amazon, but it’s also a lot smaller with less consumer traffic. For sellers, that means a tradeoff: lower costs and higher margins, but also less traffic — which means fewer sales.

“And it’s important to note that sellers shouldn’t limit themselves to one marketplace,” Gilula says. “That’s another advantage of SMG — we work with everyone, and pride ourselves on finding the right mix for each seller.”

With SMG, Gilula says, fees are minimized and passed through, so there’s no upcharge. There are no advertising requirements, either. “You have to look at goals,” Gilula says. “The big e-commerce sites are out to make money and please their investors. SMG wants you to make money, and we want to please you, the seller.”

Under SMG’s program, because of the exclusivity factor, sellers also maintain control over everything, including market fluctuations from other sellers that might affect price — and profitability.

“We simply facilitate the sales process and handle warehousing and fulfillment, with a central warehouse that allows us to reduce distribution and logistics expenses dramatically,” Gilula says. “We also provide sales and customer data to our clients — something else you don’t get when you’re dealing with the big guys. On top of that, SMG has years of experience selling products in a multitude of marketplaces. This allows us to work with our clients to develop strategies that will help them grow product sales through price fluidity, innovative promotions, and effective marketing initiatives.”

SMG has more than 25 years of experience with selling products directly to consumers — mostly branded media products, including a wide assortment of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs ranging from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Beverly Hills Cop, from NFL Films to Leslie Neilson’s Bad Golf Made Easy. Initially the company’s marketing efforts focused on making a big splash in the mainstream media, with full-page ads in USA Today and other mass-circulation newspapers as well as TV spots and infomercials. But with the advent of the internet, SMG jumped head-first into e-commerce and through careful study as well as trial and error developed its current business model, which Gilula says has been tested for 18 months “with amazing results.”

“The whole point of what we do,” Gilula says, “is exclusivity and maintaining control of the product. And what we were able to ascertain, through our 18-month trial, was that when we were the only seller with a given product at a given time, we were able to sell the product at up to a 75% higher price, and we sold as much as 200% more units. It was also interesting to see that the other sellers’ out-of-stock time ranged from four days to 10 days, while we had absolutely no down time at all.”

Gilula is a veteran of the home entertainment business. He ran several home video companies at the height of the VHS era and then oversaw the transition to DVD and the shift in consumer habits from renting cassettes to buying and collecting discs. He staffed, trained and mentored the sales and marketing organization for a startup, which generated $20 million in incremental sales for the parent corporation, and held a series of progressively more responsible positions at such major organizations as the World Wrestling Federation and Capital Cities/ABC (now part of The Walt Disney Co.).

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“The direct-to-consumer business has really grown over the years, and we’ve grown with it the entire time,” Gilula says. “There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of home businesses engaged in e-commerce, but most of them still think the only way to go is through a third-party such as Amazon, either by wholesaling to them or by letting them run your online business.

“The best option, by far, is to do it yourself, and that’s where we come in — we help you set up and run your own online business while you maintain control over everything as you generate significantly higher sales — and profits.”

Disney Launching E-Commerce Streaming Option ‘Gateway Shop’

Disney Jan. 10 announced the beta launch of its first streaming shoppable ad format, dubbed “Gateway Shop,” which allows streamers using portable devices to purchase items without disrupting their viewing experience.

Streamers receive personalized prompts for products that are sent directly to their phones via push notifications or email. Advertisers including Unilever are part of beta launch, which aims to drive awareness and conversion without disrupting the viewer experience.

“Our goal is to help audiences connect with the brands … without disrupting the content they’re streaming,” Jamie Power, SVP, addressable sales, Disney Advertising, said in a statement.

Research suggests that when given the opportunity to engage with interactive video experiences, consumers choose to do so. According to a survey conducted by Lucid in 2023, 75% of respondents said they would rather see an interactive TV ad than a standard commercial, particularly when consumers can find out more information about a product or redeem a special discount or offer.

“Audience behaviors have changed, and advertising should reflect that and serve both viewers and marketers in new ways,” said Amy Lehman, SVP, advertising platforms, Disney.

Over the next few months, Disney will continue to enhance its interactive formats and commerce experiences in streaming, offering the ability to send personalized emails and prompts for push notifications for products or offers within a TV ad unit.

The ecommerce option comes after Disney launched so-called “Pause Ads” on Hulu, which saw third-party commercials creep onto the user’s screen following an extended streaming pause.

Disney previously introduced GatewayGo, the company’s first iteration of a commerce-enabled ad format, which tapped into the second screen to deliver viewers personalized offers or promotions directly to their mobile device via email, push notification, or QR code. Since its launch in 2020, more than 200 advertisers across all categories have signed on to use this transactional format.

“Gateway Shop provides viewers with choice and control, in an engaging and non-disruptive format,” Lehman said.

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Adobe: Winter Online Shopping Revenue Increased 4.9% to Record $222.1 Billion Driven Consumer Electronics

Consumers spent $221.1 billion on ecommerce purchases from Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, 2023, up 4.9% from $210.8 billion spent in 2022, and setting a new record for e-commerce, according to new data from Adobe Analytics

A total of $123.5 billion was spent online last November (up 6% from $116.5 billion spent in November 2022), bolstered by a strong Cyber Week—the five days between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday—which drove $38 billion in online spending (up 7.8% from $35.2 billion). In December, consumers spent a total of $98.6 billion online (up 3.7% from $95 billion), driven in part by discounts that lingered past Cyber Monday (Nov. 27, 2023).

Shoppers found deals in electronics, where discounts peaked at 31% off listed price (compared to 25% in 2022), as well as toys at 28% (vs 34%) and apparel at 24% (vs. 19%). Discounts were strong across other categories, including computers at 24% (vs 20%), televisions at 23% (vs 17%), appliances at 18% (vs 16%), sporting goods at 18% (vs 10%) and furniture at 21% (vs 8%).

This holiday season, mobile hit a new milestone with 51.1% of online sales coming through smartphones (up from 47% in 2022). Mobile shopping was highest on Christmas Day (Dec. 25) driving 63% of online sales (61% in 2022); As consumers spent time with friends and family, many used their smartphones to take advantage of final deals or to redeem gift cards. Strong mobile growth in recent years has made this a key channel for retailers moving forward.

“In an uncertain demand environment, retailers leaned on discounting and flexible payment methods to entice shoppers this holiday season,” Vivek Pandya, lead analyst, Adobe Digital Insights, said in a statement. “The strategy was effective, driving record spend online during big days like Cyber Monday and Black Friday, and a record 11 days that surpassed $4 billion in daily spend this season.”

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Thanksgiving, Black Friday See Single-Digit E-Commerce Revenue Hikes

U.S. consumers increased their online shopping across Thanksgiving and Black Friday. New data from Adobe Analytics estimates domestic online sales increased 5.5% on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 23) and 7.5% on Black Friday (Nov. 24) from the same holiday periods in 2022 — both ahead of Adobe’s 5.4% growth estimate for Cyber Week, which includes Cyber Monday (Nov. 27), and the tracker’s 4.8% increased projection for the 2023 winter holiday retail season.

Adobe said consumers spent a record $9.8 billion purchasing online on Black Friday. From Nov. 1 through Nov. 24, consumers have spent $86.6 billion across both online and physical retail, according to Adobe.

Separately, Mastercard Spending Pulse recorded 8.5% increased Black Friday online sales, also ahead of its 6.7% estimate for the holiday season. Salesforce recorded a 9% hike in online sales on Black Friday.

Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter expects Amazon to report fourth quarter (ended Dec. 31) online sales increase of 6.5% compared to the same period in 2022.

“Overall, we are encouraged by the pace of [online sales] growth thus far, and will continue to monitor relevant results and commentary as the season progresses,” Pachter wrote in a Nov. 27 note.

NBCUniversal Partners With Walmart to Enable E-Commerce While Streaming Bravo’s ‘Below Deck Mediterranean’ Season 8 on Peacock

Walmart and NBCUniversal have inked a new e-commerce partnership that allows viewers to shop for select items while tuning in to Bravo’s “Below Deck Mediterranean” Season 8 the next day on Peacock. On certain dates, customers will be able to browse Walmart products used and worn by the show’s crew members and guests.

The shoppable episodes will air on Peacock Nov. 7, Dec.8  and Dec. 12. When viewers find something they want to purchase during an ad break, they can simply press arrows on the remote to browse the interactive onscreen product carousel and scan a QR code to checkout on Walmart.com.

“By expanding our shoppable TV footprint with NBCUniversal, we’re pairing our product assortment with some of their content so our customers can purchase items while they’re watching,” William White, Chief Marketing Officer, Walmart U.S., said in a statement.

NBCUniversal is using AI technology to identify objects within a scene of a show, enabling viewers to shop products featured in the content they’re watching. For example, of the chief stew on “Below Deck” serves a sit-down dinner using dishware, viewers will be served a shoppable ad unit where they can shop similar dishware on Walmart’s site.

“For too long, viewers had to scour the internet to find a product they saw their TV favorite [characters] use in-show,” said Josh Feldman, Global Chief Marketing Officer, Advertising & Partnerships, NBCUniversal.

Roku Partners With Shopify for On-Screen Merchant Purchases

Roku July 11 announced a partnership with Shopify to enable streamers the ability to purchase products from participating merchants directly from their connected TV.

Upon seeing an ad for a merchant, viewers can press OK on their Roku remote to learn more about the product and purchase it directly from their TV. They will be able to check out with Roku Pay, Roku’s payments platform, and return to their streaming video once they have completed the purchase. Purchasers will receive email confirmation of their order directly from the merchant once the transaction has been processed.

Roku, which helped usher in the subscription streaming video market with Netflix, is looking at ecommerce as a way to upgrade its advertising network. Dubbed “Roku Action Ads,” the spots on Roku streaming devices provide a “down funnel” action, such as sending users a text, scanning a QR code, or making a purchase.

Integrating Shopify purchases into Action Ads is the first commerce integration for independent merchants on TV streaming, creating a completely new advertising channel for Shopify merchants to explore. Men’s apparel brand True Classic, the game-based connected rower Ergatta, and wellness brand Olly have signed on as initial partners.

“Bringing a purchase experience to television for merchants is an industry first,” Peter Hamilton, senior director of ad innovation at Roku, said in a statement.

The two companies hope the partnership will shorten the link between advertisers and consumers to purchases on the largest screen in the home. Roku says advertisers on their platform receive more customer data and insight into purchasing trends, plus point-of-sale access to the platform’s audience.

“We are making it easier for more brands to drive deeper engagement with shoppers and reach new audiences,” said Mani Fazeli, director of product at Shopify.

Disney Tests Selling Brand Merchandise to Disney+ Subscribers

Disney+ Nov. 1 launched a promotion to allow subscribers in the United States to purchase branded merchandise early for a limited time on the shopDisney site over the holiday season.

Disney+ subscribers can visit shopDisney or the details pages of select movies, series and shorts on the streaming platform to scan QR codes to purchase merchandise before it is made available to the general public. Merchandise includes products from select movie franchises and series, including “Star Wars,” Marvel Studios’ Black Panther and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Frozen 2 and Lightyear.

The shop tab will be available to Disney+ primary profiles in the United States that have been verified as 18 and older.

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“Special access to this curated collection of merchandise for the upcoming holiday season is the latest example of the many ways we experiment with how to improve the user experience on Disney+, which includes enhancing the benefits of being a subscriber,” Alisa Bowen, president of Disney+, said in a statement.

Special products include:

 

Additionally, Disney+ subs will have exclusive access to shopDisney made-to-order merchandise, including new T-shirt and sweatshirt designs from Frozen 2 and Lightyear.

Crunchyroll Acquires E-Commerce Site Right Stuf

Anime distributor Crunchyroll Aug. 4 announced it has purchased anime online retailer Right Stuf to expand its e-commerce service. The deal, the terms of which are not disclosed, immediately widens Crunchyroll’s online product offering with significant extensions in the home entertainment and manga categories.

“For years, Right Stuf has been an important part of anime fandom with products, services and a shopping experience that super-serves anime collectors,” Rahul Purini, president of Crunchyroll, said in a statement.

Shawne Kleckner, CEO of Right Stuf, believes joining forces with Crunchyroll will enable the platform to accelerate and scale e-commerce opportunities for anime consumers.

“For 35 years, Right Stuf’s mission has been to connect anime fans with the products they love,” Kleckner said.

With the acquisition, Kleckner and the Right Stuf management team will be joining Crunchyroll’s “emerging businesses” unit led by Terry Li, GM of games.

Crunchyroll and parent Sony Pictures Entertainment were advised by Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP, and Right Stuf was advised by Hennepin Partners and Lathrop GPM for the transaction.

Roku, Walmart Partner for E-Commerce Transactions

Roku and Walmart June 16 announced a groundbreaking partnership to make TV streaming the next e-commerce shopping destination. Walmart will be the exclusive retailer to enable streamers to purchase featured products fulfilled by Walmart directly on Roku

This pact is designed to evolve shopping beyond the QR code. The new platform aims to offer product discovery with a checkout experience, enabling purchase directly at the time of inspiration.

“We’re working to connect with customers where they are already spending time, shortening the distance from discovery and inspiration to purchase,” William White, chief marketing officer for Walmart, said in a statement.

White claims there have been few, if any, breakthroughs affording consumers the ability to purchase products via video shopping.

“By working with Roku, we’re the first to market retailer to bring customers a new [shopping] experience and seamless checkout on the largest screen in their homes — their TV,” White said.

Viewers simply press “OK” with the remote on a shoppable ad and proceed to checkout with their payment details easily pre-populated from Roku Pay, Roku’s payments platform. From there, tapping “OK” on the Walmart checkout page places the order. A Walmart purchase confirmation is then emailed with shipping, return, and support information.

“We’re making shopping on TV as easy as it is on social,” said Peter Hamilton, head of TV commerce at Roku. “For years, streamers have purchased new Roku devices and signed up for millions of subscriptions with their Roku remote. Streaming commerce brings that same ease and convenience to marketers and shoppers.”

OneView, Roku’s ad-buying platform for TV streaming, will have the capability to activate and measure the shopping ads. Additionally, marketers will be able to use Roku Brand Studio to design custom creative and branded content built for TV streaming and shopping.

Future iterations of the pilot program will look for opportunities to build deeper commerce experiences that meet customers where they are.