Several weeks ago, Twitter announced it was testing a “buy button” that will allow users to make purchases without leaving the social network. Since we spend more of our time on social media than anywhere else on the Internet, sites like Twitter and Facebook have established businesses that focus on providing advertisers the opportunity to interact with visitors.
Twitter and Facebook have allied with data companies that link the ads we see on their sites with what we buy in stores. “If I log onto a social platform, I’m there to be social,” David Tisch, who recently launched a shopping app called Spring that looks much like Instagram.
“And I think every social platform that got built was user to user and then brands were a secondary piece. So brands have tried to figure out where they fit into these networks. As a customer, I’m never logging onto any of these networks saying, I want to go shopping.”
Sarah Kessler, an associate editor at Fast Company who covers technology companies, reports the buy buttons within tweets from select Twitter accounts will initially be shown to a small percentage of U.S. users in Twitter’s mobile apps, and Twitter plans to eventually expand the program to more users and its desktop program.
New York Times writer Vindu Goel points out that the test comes as competition in the world of mobile e-commerce intensifies. “Apple is expected to unveil a new phone-based payment system on Tuesday as part of its latest update to the iPhone. And Facebook, Twitter’s biggest rival, began testing a ‘buy’ button on its service in July.”
Payments company Stripe will power these transactions, though a Twitter spokesperson said they expect to add more payment partners over time. According to their blog, Twitter has partnered with Fancy (@fancy), Gumroad (@gumroad), Musictoday (@Musictoday) and Stripe (@stripe) as platforms for this initial test, with more partners to follow soon.
After clicking on a buy button, the checkout process can be completed without leaving Twitter. The site will store encrypted payment information so that it does not need to be re-entered for every new purchase.
From Twitter’s blog: “In our test, an entire purchase can be completed in just a few taps. After tapping the ‘Buy’ button, you will get additional product details and be prompted to enter your shipping and payment information. Once that’s entered and confirmed, your order information is sent to the merchant for delivery.”
Buy Buttons Can Function as Ads
Tweets with buy buttons can be promoted so that they function as ads, but Twitter hasn’t indicated whether or not it will take a percentage of the buy button purchases themselves. “This ease of purchase could make Twitter’s buy button an impulse purchaser’s worst nightmare, which, of course, is every marketer’s dearest dream,” writes Kessler.
Last year in August, before going public, Twitter hired former Ticketmaster president Nathan Hubbard to lead its commerce efforts. “In January, mockups of a Twitter buy button surfaced on tech website Re/code, and by June, tweets featuring the button had been spotted in the wild. Last month, Twitter acquired payment infrastructure startup CardSpring.”
Twitter has previously launched commerce experiments with American Express and Starbucks, but neither was widely adopted. The New York Times notes that unlike Twitter’s previous e-commerce efforts with Amazon and American Express, the latest effort will not require buyers to send a public message with a special hashtag to buy a product. Instead, they will click on a “buy” button inside the Twitter message.
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