YouTube sunsets shopping feature allowing creators to tag products

Social media platforms like TikTok, YouTube and Instagram continue to change up shopping tools as social commerce evolves.
An illustration of a blank YouTube video page.
  • YouTube is killing a beta program that paid creators to post shoppable links.
  • The platform remains committed to affiliate marketing but is focused on its program that earns creators' commission. 
  • Social media platforms continue to shift strategies related to social commerce.

YouTube this month will sunset a shopping tool that paid creators to tag third-party products in their videos with shoppable links.

According to a report from Insider, YouTube in a message to creators said the feature would end on April 19. The invite-only tool had been in beta testing since 2021. Unlike typical affiliate marketing, creators didn’t earn commission on sales. Instead, they earned a monthly payment between $50 and $100 from YouTube, the report said.

The tool allowed creators to tag products from third-party retailers’ websites, including from brands such as Fenty Beauty, Sephora and Samsung, according to Insider. People who watched the videos could view products directly on a YouTube video page and check out on retailers’ websites, according to the report.

“We strongly believe that YouTube is the best place for creators to build a business and that an affiliate model will be the most beneficial way for creators to earn money at scale,” said the message from YouTube. “As we invest in the affiliate program as a long-term solution to earn from tagging products on YouTube, we’ll be phasing out the ability to tag products from other brands and related short-term incentive programs.”

As Insider noted, the messaging from YouTube indicates that the social media platform isn’t set to give up on its affiliate model, but is working to develop a more robust option. “We've seen early success with our YouTube Shopping affiliate program, which allows creators in the U.S. to earn commission from purchases on tagged products in their videos and Shorts, and will now begin to move to this model for all creators,” YouTube’s message said.

The change to YouTube comes amid broader shifts across social-media platforms related to social commerce. Meta-owned Instagram earlier this year booted the shopping tab from the home feed of its app. Instagram last month also disabled a tool that allowed creators to tag products in their livestream videos.

TikTok, meanwhile, has only increased its e-commerce ambitions in the U.S. TikTok earlier this year began testing in-app shopping with select retailers and merchants, such as Pacsun and KimChi Chic Beauty, Retail Leader reported. TikTok plans to roll the feature out more broadly later this year. 

While social commerce hasn’t been as popular in the U.S. as it has been abroad — especially in Asia — the industry still has an impact domestically. According to a 2022 survey from DISQO, 51% of U.S. consumers who watched live or recorded shopping videos on social media made a purchase, compared to 27.2% who said they had not.