10.09.2014 Twitter launches e-commerce push with buy button

Twitter has announced that the micro-blogging social media platform is trialling a brand new service: a buy button that allows Twitter users to instantly purchase items mentioned in tweets.

At the moment, only 28 specially selected users and a few commercial partners are involved  in the trial. If it appears to have money making potential, the button could eventually be introduced to all users.

This push to generate a new revenue stream for Twitter could have major consequences for consumer brands, and for the way we interact with the platform.

Could this be a revolution in tweet-ail? (groan – ed).

So, how does it work?

In a partnership between Twitter and businesses that want to invest in paid promotion, the new buy button will appear on sponsored tweets and advertisements. Notable partners include British fashion house Burberry and Grammy Award-winning musician Pharrell Williams, and items up for grabs could include catwalk-fresh clothing or gig tickets.

Twitter users can click on a link or image embedded in a tweet by one of the partners to purchase the item mentioned. One of Twitter’s partners in the trial, payments company Strip Inc., has provided the technology required to store users’ credit card details on the social network so that users will not have to re-enter their card information. While a convenient step, it brings the consumer ever closer to parting with their cash, encouraging them to act on impulse and buy, buy, buy.

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 Will it catch on?

There have been similar trials on Facebook and Instagram. On the former, users could exchange real money for Facebook credits in selected online stores. It was quite complicated, and was soon deemed too much of a flop to be continued. Instagram, however, has had greater success with its click-to-buy service. Fans of retailers can view instapics of items on sale, then click on items within the photo to be taken to a webpage where they can buy the item.

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The potential for this additional dimension to the Twitter experience is massive. It opens up all sorts of possibilities for Twitter users and partners. The new e-commerce/ social media hybrid speeds up shopping and could represent a major shift away from our pre-smartphone purchasing habits. The potential value of the move was reflected in the stock exchange when the move was announced, with shares in Twitter rising by a significant 2.6%.

Could Twitter have found another way to monetise its service apart from advertising?

How much appetite will there be from retailers and consumers for the service? Only time will tell.

We await the results of the trial with interest.