Media

The Today show tries out a new trick: shoppable recipes

NBC’s morning show will highlight hundreds of shoppable recipes designed to get people spending at Walmart.
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NBCUniversal/Today show

· 5 min read

We’ve all been there. You’re binge-watching Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, and you suddenly have a hankering to make rigatoni all’Amatriciana. Or perhaps you’re in the middle of The Great British Bake Off when you frantically start searching for fruit tart recipes.

If you happen to watch the Today show, you’ll find that tracking down those recipes from the show, like Italian wedding soup or cinnamon rolls—not to mention actually buying the ingredients—has gotten a little bit easier.

Beginning last week, the NBC morning show started letting visitors to its site to add ingredients for hundreds of recipes from the show to an online shopping cart and buy them from Walmart in just a few clicks. Today’s on-air cooking segments also became shoppable last week when chef Gaby Dalkin shared three healthy winter recipes on Thursday. Just scan an on-screen QR code or text a number to receive a link, anchors Al Roker and Carson Daly instructed viewers, and the recipe opens on your phone. Viewers can then choose to purchase ingredients from Walmart for either delivery or pickup.

By March, Today’s streaming channel, Today All Day on Peacock, will also let viewers purchase ingredients for recipes they’ve seen on screen.

The new feature, called Today Table, is the latest and one of the most ambitious pillars in the morning show’s growing e-commerce ambitions, designed to make it easier than ever for its audience to spend money directly from articles and segments.

“We want our audience to be able to watch a recipe on-air, add the ingredients to their cart on digital before the end of that commercial break, and then pick up their groceries in time for dinner that evening,” Ashley Parrish, executive editor of Today Digital and VP of strategic content at NBC News Group, told Marketing Brew.

NBC also gets a seat at the table: For each Today Table grocery checkout with Walmart, the company will earn a commission.

A long time coming

Today’s shoppable ambitions began in earnest five years ago when the company, after conducting an audience survey, found that 89% of Today viewers and readers would want to buy products they had either seen on-air or on Today’s digital properties.

The results of the survey, Parrish said, gave the Today brand the green light to begin building a considerable affiliate marketing effort, which began in digital but quickly expanded to on-air segments that direct viewers to online shopping destinations.

The most successful of those efforts has been the shopping segment Steals & Deals hosted by Jill Martin, which, in 2018, helped Today rake in a reported $60 million in gross revenue that year. (Now, Martin also hosts a shopping program on Peacock, complete with shoppable QR codes.)

That has translated into a lucrative new revenue stream for the show. By 2019, products purchased through Today’s e-commerce efforts generated sales in the high eight figures, the company said. In 2021, revenue was up 70% year over year, Parrish said.

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Meanwhile, NBCUniversal has been developing other tools company-wide to strengthen its e-commerce ambitions. Take NBC Checkout, an online tool that allows readers and viewers to easily select a featured product and make a purchase.

The shoppable recipes on Today Table, though, are not powered by NBC Checkout. Instead, a third-party vendor specializing in nationwide grocery inventory management handles the technical complexities required to make the shoppable recipes functional.

“It’s not just inventory in one warehouse—it’s inventory across all the zip codes of a national retailer,” Parrish explained. “It just has a much more complicated back end.”

Service-minded

The decision to build out the tool was born out of the popularity of Today’s food section, which, according to Parrish, is one of the most returned-to sections of Today’s website. Years of data about the popularity of Today recipes helped inform the investment, along with wanting to provide additional utility to viewers.

“We know that our audience loves to be able to watch our recipes on the show, look up the recipe online,” said Libby Leist,  SVP of Today and NBC News. “There’s just that natural evolution of it, which is now that we can make it easy to buy what might be in the recipe.”

Walmart, which did not make an executive available for this story, has been testing out shoppable recipes on other platforms, like on Pinterest, to drive grocery sales. Through the partnership with Today, Walmart gets access to Today.com’s 50+ million monthly unique viewers and prime billing on Today’s morning broadcast, which averaged 3.28 million total viewers in the 2020–2021 season and captures more viewers in the 25–54 age demo than any other morning show on TV.

The retailer, though, does not get a say in the types of recipes that become shoppable. Instead, Leist stressed, the recipes are independently created by Today’s editorial team and designed to be useful depending on factors like the time needed to cook or holiday-specific recipes.

“Every decision we make,” she said, is “through our own independent editorial lens and what we think is going to service our viewer in the best way possible.”

NBCUniversal executives hope that the product’s utility will help build an even stronger relationship with their existing fan base while also attracting younger viewers and future fans—key to the morning show’s ambitions to continue to grow.

“We want to be a resource for not only that core audience that we have, but now a younger audience—that we take the trust that people have in us and we work hard to continue to build that,” Leist said.

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