Lori Marion and Michelle Perkins developed technology that lets people buy the products they see on TV — and they joined the 2022 Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, powered by Techstars, to move their vision forward.
Imagine you’re watching your favorite streaming TV series. The main character enters the frame wearing a unique T-shirt and fashionable skirt. You just have to shop the look. Rather than searching endlessly online, you simply use your remote control to click the “buy” button on the screen.
While that scenario might sound futuristic, Fade Technology Solutions has already developed the technology. The San Francisco-based startup offers shoppable video monetization that lets viewers discover and buy contextually in video. There are benefits for all stakeholders. Consumers get a shorter path from discovery to purchase. Retailers get exposure on the largest screen in the home. Streaming services get a new way to monetize content as free ad-supported revenue models become more mainstream.
“This solution provides the ability for brands to have a better experience with consumers and allows publishers to serve fewer ads because these units are much more valuable,” said Lori Marion, co-founder of Fade.
Here’s how it works: At certain moments in a TV show, movie, or video ad, a shoppable tag appears on the screen. Users click “buy” with their remote to add it to a universal cart that’s accessible online or via a mobile app. Then, they can complete the purchase or research the product further.
Fade is looking at consumers who routinely scroll through their phones while watching TV shows and movies — often searching for products they see on screen. In fact, 88% of Americans use a second screen while watching TV, and 35% use them to look up or shop for products they see advertised.
Before Fade, that buying experience was far more difficult. If you were interested in buying the T-shirt and pants depicted in a TV show, you’d have to go down a rabbit hole of internet searching without knowing critical information like the brand or retailer.
“You don’t even know what to search for in the first place. Even if you found it, you don’t know where to buy it,” said Fade co-founder Michelle Perkins. “We are making it much more convenient for consumers and brands to immediately harvest opportunities when consumers are most engaged.”
From Fast Friends to Business Partners
Marion and Perkins met while working at Dolby Laboratories in the San Francisco area. Both women from underrepresented communities that had worked in tech for years became fast friends.
Over the years, Perkins would share stories about her 13 years as a product marketer with Adobe. Marion shared her experience as head of product marketing at PayPal and working for organizations like Wells Fargo, Electronic Arts, and Sony. One topic of conversation came up again and again — shoppable TV and movies. They became obsessed with developing the first mainstream solution and assembled a team of people with experience at companies like Dolby Laboratories, Apple, Amazon, and Vimeo. Soon, they developed an elegant, subtle way to tag video content without disrupting the programming. They are planning to launch it widely in early 2023.
To help move their vision forward even more, Marion and Perkins joined the 2022 class of the Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs Accelerator, powered by Techstars. It was an opportunity to gain connections with executives in entertainment and technology.
“Why not do that side-by-side with Comcast?” said Marion. “It’s phenomenal that a company as large as Comcast is interested in smaller, faster companies like ours.”
With Comcast and Techstars behind them, Marion and Perkins see a future where Fade not only offers a shoppable video solution, but also expands as entertainment evolves.