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Ben Austin

Twitter’s Buy Button: A New Phase of E-Commerce?

Ben Austin
Twitter’s Buy Button: A New Phase of E-Commerce?

Some rely on Twitter as their main source of news; others check their overnight followers before they’ve even finished their Cornflakes in the morning. Whatever way you look at it, social media is fast encroaching into every part of our lives.

Never one to miss out, Twitter has taken this trend one step further by introducing a new “Buy” button to its list of features. Currently in the testing phase, the move is apparently one to bolster its position as an e-commerce platform. Allowing users to effectively cut out the middle man, it will now be possible to make a purchase directly from the social media network.

Teaming up with online payments service, Stripe, this is not Twitter’s first foray into the world of e-commerce, forming partnerships in the past with both Starbucks and American Express. Its new Buy button however, symbolizes a bigger step, and arguably a more thought-out one too. This being said, it’s not without its concerns.

Who Stands to Benefit?

The digital entertainment industry, flash sales and brands selling limited edition beauty products all have the potential to do very well out of Twitter’s Buy button. Part of Twitter’s charm lies in its pace and spontaneity, and enabling in-tweet purchases simply adds to the momentum. Charities are also likely to benefit, especially with the rise in vanity donations. The Ice Bucket Challenge serves as a reminder of how much more likely people are to donate when the world is watching.

Lower-end retailers may also be able to cash-in on drunken impulse splurges at the end of a night out when revelers are updating the Twittersphere on their evening’s antics.

At the other end of the spectrum though, companies selling higher-end retail products — anything that requires a bit of research such as insurance, cars or holidays, as well as general everyday items — may want to bypass this trend. Eliminating the urgency of limited stock or time means most people won’t be interested in turning to social media networks for their shopping.

An Interruption to the Buying Cycle

As we touched on, the customer path to purchase is a complicated one, and people are unlikely to cut out research and comparison purely for the sake of convenience. More than this though, by meddling with the customer journey, it would be easy to lose the trust of your audience.

You may also miss out on opportunities to up-sell and cross-sell. Through its initial blog post breaking the news, Twitter revealed its aim was to “reduce friction” between promoting a company and the eventual transaction. But is this so called “friction” necessarily a bad thing?

While tweets may limit you to 140 characters, this still provides you with plenty of space to include a photo and a link to the product on your website. Once they make this small transition you have the chance to show them what else you can offer, a prospect lost when selling directly from Twitter.

What Impact Will Security Fears Have?

It will be music to the ears of celebrities, as well as us regular civilians, that Twitter is putting security at the forefront of its new creation. It noted that users’ payments and shipping information will be safely encrypted and stored.

Still, security and privacy issues remain concerns heavily linked with both e-commerce and social media. By combining the two mediums and shortening the process, Twitter could be hard-pressed to instil enough trust in its users to part with their card details simply to make a transaction quicker. Experts have also highlighted the possibilities for rogue trading.

All in all, it comes down to a simple equation of whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

Is This What People Actually Want from Their Social Media Channels?

There is little evidence to suggest that people want or expect additional services like the ability to make payments from their social platforms. Facebook in particular has broadened its horizons to allow users to play games, swap photos, even sell cars, and this hasn’t been without its fair share of doubt and criticism, with many claiming the site has lost its sense of identity along the way.

Twitter by contrast, has remained fairly dedicated to its original niche offering. Does the new Buy button serve as an extension of its fast-paced social sharing service, or has it simply been tempted by the lure of another revenue-generating opportunity?

Either way, those who plan to exploit it would be best advised to make sure the tool is configured with their Analytics, regularly measuring to check its return on investment and to make sure they are approaching their customers at the right moment.

All things considered, Twitter’s Buy button could be a lucrative tool for the right business. But it has to be worth the time, money, effort and risk it entails.

What are you thoughts on Twitter's Buy button? Let us know in the comments.

Ben Austin is CEO of Absolute Digital Media, an award-winning agency specialising in SEO, PPC, social media and web design. Inspired by all things digital, Ben can be found on Twitter and Google+. His last article for SEMrush was "10 Ways Email Marketing Retains Customers."

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