According to the article, "There will be “Lupin” pillows and Netflix-branded boxer shorts. There will be caps, necklaces, charms and hoodies, all of it for sale at Netflix.shop, a site that goes live on Thursday, when the world’s biggest streaming company plants a flag in the territory of e-commerce."
Orange is the New Black.
Money Heist. (That's Casas de Papel if you're outside of North America.)
The list goes on, and on...
Netflix certainly doesn't have a shortage of fan-loved "Netflix Original" intellectual property to monetize on a shopping site.
And the reason they would want to do so likely has little to do with the amount of money they might make on the sale of those physical goods; even the Netflix executive responsible for this initiative implied the money generated from the boutique shop was not expected to match the amount Netflix makes through its deals with store chains and fashion brands, saying, "Practically speaking, the revenue will come more from those partners around the world in terms of sheer footprint and number of locations and magnitude.”
But if fans purchase branded merchandise to support a show they love, that's free advertising for the show... and that drives interest, subscriptions, and revenue for the streaming giant. As a general rule, when you can get your customers to pay YOU to promote your wares, you should almost certainly do it.
If Netflix is looking for "easy merchandise", they'll go with T-shirts, hats, and hoodies. And they should definitely have all of those items available on the shopping site.
But easy is boring.
Netflix.shop could be so much more if they take the time to develop merchandise that really gets to the heart of each show. Things like Orange is the New Black prison jumpsuits, Money Heist masks, and official Tiger King tiger plushies might be more difficult to make work, but they allow hardcore fans to really appreciate the shows they love. And if the shopping site's primary goal is promotion (not monetization), this might be the better way to go.
Of course, as the title character of Netflix's Lucifer might say, the devil is in the details.
The merchandise available on the site might depend on creativity, but the key to the site's success will depend on the boring-but-critical behind-the-scenes activities necessary for almost all successful physical businesses: forecasting, logistics, and inventory management.
Will Netflix (and partners) be able to forecast which shows will be hot, and create unique merchandise in time for the launch when the desire for it will be at its peak?
Will I be able to order a terrific hybrid-hoodie to support SweetTooth as soon as I watch the first episode, and then be wearing it before I can finish binging the season and lose interest? (With Shopify as a partner, I'm betting this will be the least of their concerns.)
Will Netflix know to create just enough inventory to satisfy all (or nearly all) of the demand for it, but not enough to worry about leftover goods when our collective attention has moved on to the next hit show?
Time will tell.
But where there's a will, there's a way...
... and Netflix has the deep pockets required to figure out how to make this work.