Randy Bapst, Chief Executive Officer AiBUY, sits down with Tim Siglin, Founding Executive Director, Help Me Stream Research Foundation, and Contributing Editor, Streaming Media, to discuss AI-based OTT overlay transitions in this interview from Streaming Media East 2023.
The AiBUY Basics
Siglin asks Bapst to describe what AiBUY does.
“AiBUY is a new way to monetize within content,” Bapst says. “AiBUY gives an overlay to allow the viewer to actually purchase something while watching a streaming video. It can also be used in online publications, and it’s multifaceted. So it’s something really unique to the marketplace right now.”
“So is it using an augmented reality overlay?” Siglin asks.
“We’ve got product recognition,” Bapst says. “We’ve got about 2 million pieces of merchandise that’s been run through and so it can identify and suggest certain products as they roll.”
“Does the end viewer have to skip off the screen to make a purchase?” Siglin asks.
“Absolutely not,” Bapst says. “There’s no redirect. So a lot of time and money is spent to get eyeballs into the view, and so what we allow that viewer to do is not lose the engagement with the show, and they can buy a product, or multiple products, even from multiple vendors while [they’re] engaged.”
Siglin asks if the transactions are going through AiBUY or a third party.
“It’s a pipe, and it would use the customer’s backend,” Bapst says. “So whatever payment processing system they use, it would just use that as normal.”
“And then what does it take to integrate your solution into the workflow?” Siglin asks.
“It depends on the company and what they do and their size,” Bapst says. “But a couple of weeks probably for our dev teams to put it together and get it operational. From there, there’s a management portal the customer gets where they can stage the cadence of the merchandise – where it appears, how it appears. There are many variable options that are offered to them.”
“And short of going through and making those business logic decisions, is there anything technical that they have to do, the content owner themselves?” Siglin asks.
“No,” Bapst says. “Once it’s installed [and] the dev teams have put it together, it’s really just swapping out the merchandise.”
The Typical AiBUY Customer and Markets
Siglin asks what the typical AiBUY customer looks like.
Bapst declares that there is no typical customer. “Anything that spans the imagination,” he says. “Anybody that has video content in merchandise is a customer. CTV, mobile, laptop, desktop.”
“Which of those markets do you feel like you’ll get better traction in?” Siglin asks. “Somebody who’s on the run, on a mobile phone?”
“I mean, a lot more is happening on mobile than ever before,” Bapst says. “There’s a lot happening right now even on CTV, where you’ve got the typical clunky remote to find what movie you want to watch, but there’s now pairings coming up to link that to your smartphone apps…so a lot of this stuff is moving really rapidly.”
“Now, I know on a mobile phone, you could touch it to choose to purchase something,” Siglin says. “How do you interface with a connected TV to do that type of thing?”
Bapst emphasizes that it depends on the customer and how they want the display to appear via Bluetooth pairings or QR codes.
“So if there’s a QR code, they could pull the code to their second screen and do the purchase there, as opposed to coming out of the program?” Siglin asks, and Bapst confirms that this is correct. “Will it eventually get to the point where it’s literally just, ‘I click on it, and I don’t need to do anything else, and it’s going to buy it for me automatically?’”
“There are people here at this conference that have a solution just that does just that,” Bapst says. “And I’ve seen more and more of that being developed. Apple Pay is another solution. And so more of these solutions on the backend are making it even more seamless so customers don’t have to enter in their user information or their payment information with every site they deliver. They just have it on one application, and it’s universally accepted.”
“And how do you deal with inadvertent buys?” Siglin asks. “Because this is a problem obviously with things like the App Store.”
“Again, we’re just the pipe,” Bapst says. “So whatever the merchant normally deals with on those things, the process wouldn’t change.”
“So yours is the B2B piece of it. You don’t touch the consumer at all?” Siglin asks, and Bapst confirms they do not.
Why AiBUY is Now Perfectly Positioned For the New Screen-Purchasing Generation
Siglin asks how long AiBUY has been in business.
“It’s gone through a major transitional period, but it’s been around for eight years,” Bapst says. “Most of it has been in development. We have 83 patents in 35 countries that are pretty locked down for this type of technology. And we’re really coming to market with it now.”
“So I’ve been in this space for just about a quarter of a century,” Siglin says. “And some of the early interactive purchasing solutions that were put out for clothing and the like…that didn’t get traction because customers frankly weren’t interested in buying stuff off the screen. What did get traction was ordering pizza, which I found fascinating. The number of tests that were done…what somebody wanted was something that was complimentary to what was on the screen as opposed to what was on the screen. Does your solution take into account any of those complimentary purchases, as well?”
Bapst says this screen-purchasing hesitation has rapidly diminished over the last several years. He notes that due to trailblazers like Amazon, most of the public is now entirely comfortable with screen-based purchases. “Generationally, you’ve got young people moving up,” he says. “That’s all they’ve known. Guys like you and I, that’s not what we knew growing up…as far as the merchandise goes, it can be anything. It really is just at the hands of the customer. What do they want to display?”
Siglin says, “So not necessarily what’s appearing in the content itself, but perhaps an overlay that pops up suggesting something that would be complemented?”
“It could be something that is not relevant to the show, but for example, they might be watching a movie and an idea pops up of, ‘Hey, we want to show this. We want to present this to our customer because we think they might be interested in it at this point in time.”
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