YouTube will detect items shown in videos and generate a list of related products to buy.
Automated suggestions will appear as viewers scroll on the platform.
The technology will allow users to identify products that appear in the video and search for related content on the video site.
The feature is currently being tested on some users in the US only – but experts say it could bring “huge” change to the advertising industry.
“We are experimenting with a new feature that displays a list of products detected in some videos, as well as related products,” YouTube said.
“The goal is to help people explore more videos and information about those products on YouTube.”
With a “top-10 smartphones in 2020” video, for example, “some viewers will see an icon on the video, along with more information below, listing the phone models included in the video”.
“From there, viewers can explore each product’s page to see more information, related videos, and purchase options for that product,” YouTube added.
It began testing the Products in this Video feature in April last year.
The auto-detection will also recommend videos by other creators on the platform that feature the products.
“The YouTube algorithm already does a fairly solid job of auto-detecting just what content you’ve been watching and serving up related videos – but this feels more aimed toward the kind of content that people watch as pre-research before making a purchase,” technology news website 9to5google said.
‘End of advertising’
Brand designer Studio LWD founder Laura Weldon said: “This could be huge, giving [YouTube owner] Google a large piece of the affiliate-link market that works so well on Instagram and could potentially put them in the same shopping space.
“It will also mean that videos can be easily commercialised, which gives huge potential for small businesses as they can easily upload various videos of their products and then the viewer can buy.
“If this takes off, it could possibly signal the end of traditional advertising as we know it.”
Beauty communications agency Seen Group strategy director Natasha Hulme said: “Beauty consumers looking for product reviews and advice use YouTube like a search engine as well as for entertainment.
“This new feature could make it easier for beauty buyers to find products being recommended by beauty creators and make it less likely that products will get missed in content.”
And the technology could extend beyond reviews to more creative applications, for example finding out the make-up used in a music video, she suggested.