What Does Twitter’s Buy Button Mean for eCommerce?

Twitter users can now add “shopping” to the list of reasons they are actually being productive while browsing for hours on end. The social media giant is in the process of rolling out a “Buy” button on branded tweets.

Currently, users can try out the feature on a handful of retailers and products, including Wiz Khalifa tickets and Home Depot products. Many eCommerce brands are ecstatic about the leveraging opportunities, but others are skeptical about the effectiveness of attempting sales conversions on a platform made for “hanging out.”

How the Buy Button Works

So far, Twitter has been hazy on the details for the vendor side. Presumably, Twitter will either charge a set fee per transaction similar to PPC, or they will charge a percentage of each sale. A company named Stripe will manage the payment system, and vendors will be responsible for order fulfillment and shipping.

On the consumer end, customers making their first purchase hit the Buy button, enter their payment and shipping information and then complete the order. They have the option to save their information for later use, reducing the number of clicks needed to buy to around two total after the first purchase.

eCommerce brands are excited about this feature because it reduces the friction between product discovery and sales conversion. The feature will first appear on Twitter’s mobile app, so brands will be able to capture an audience looking to pass the time and make purchase decisions with as little energy as possible.

Right Audience at the Right Time

While it is unclear if Twitter will be letting brands use the buy button in promoted ads, the PPC model would help Twitter gain even more ad revenue than they currently are. This fact makes it extremely likely that Twitter will allow the Buy button to appear on both promoted and organic tweets.

If that is indeed true, eCommerce brands can take advantage of Twitter’s sophisticated targeting tools to find the customer that is most likely to take action. Users can be grouped based on demographics like age and location, but they are also grouped in interests based on the people and hashtags they follow. Product offers can use this information to find their way to the most relevant audience possible.

Even if users decide not to buy, they can share product-based Buy Tweets with their followers. This type of brand evangelism is one of the first marketing tools used on Twitter. Now that a Buy button is added, the act of sharing a branded tweet counts more as a sales pitch from that user rather than a simple recommendation. Influential users like celebrities and thought leaders can help fuel sales based on this effect alone.

On top of pinpointing the right people, Twitter is also excellent at responding to developments in a timely manner. People can choose to click to buy sports merchandise after their favorite team won the championship not ten minutes ago. An accessory that gets a lot of attention on the red carpet can similarly be offered within moments of the press event.

The separation between desire and action can be reduced to almost nothing as users react in-the-moment to cultural developments. Perhaps this benefit is the reason Twitter predicts concert ticket sales will be a hot item for Buy button purchases, since concert announcement dates can be followed by a purchase within the same browser window.

Making Sure the Buy Button is the Right Tool for the Job

Despite the obvious and exciting opportunities the Buy button presents, eCommerce industry experts are skeptical that the button will transform Twitter into a sales platform akin to Amazon or eBay.

Such pundits are suggesting that the platform is better suited to the timely offers as listed above or limited-time promotions like discounts and product bundles. Speaking on the subject for Time Money, Brad Tuttle explains that “the sudden appearance of a social media ‘Buy’ button gives the consumer a feeling of exclusivity — of somehow being selected and singled out as special. There will be pressure to act quickly or miss out on the deal at hand.”

Following this logic, the functionality limits the effectiveness of Buy offers to products the customer is already familiar with and have considered purchasing. The Buy button thus becomes the end destination of the customer journey, rather than a platform of discovery. Newly-released products would have to have hype to be effective at earning conversions, or they must combine popular elements like a Dr. Who coffee mug in order for Twitter users to jump on the Buy offer.

Thrive commerce

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