Twitter has announced more platform partners to enable its 'Buy' button within shared or promoted posts.

Demandware, Bigcommerce and Shopify will both be offering clients the option of adding commerce functionality to their tweets, but are users really that interested in buying directly from Twitter?

China presents a precedent...

Social proof and user generated content is massive in China. There are a rumoured 200m bank accounts linked up with WeChat.

Social media plays a huge part in validating purchases through peer review and if social networks globally can push into this lifestyle territory, Twitter stands a good chance of succeeding with a commerce function.

But relevance of tweets may be the biggest hurdle for now...

The Twitter commerce team hopes a 'Buy' button supported by an increasing number of ecommerce partners will be part of the advent of distributed mobile commerce. That means we'll eventually be able to buy wherever we are.

As issues of connectivity, security and experience are ironed out, mobile commerce is increasing.

Social commerce specifically was responsible for sales of $3.3bn amongst the Internet Retailing Social 500 companies in 2014 (according to IR).

So, surely Twitter's 'one click' buy button (once your details are saved) makes sense and has the same ease of use that Apple Pay is banking on?

Well, the question might not be whether users are ready for mobile commerce, but whether Twitter can target them. Techcrunch reports that in Twitter's Q2 earnings call, interim CEO Jack Dorsey was focused on relevance (with everything else following).

On the commerce side it is still super early for this product but a lot of our focus has been around making tweets more relevant and delivering more relevant tweets faster to people and as we do that everything within the action, within the tweet action benefits, including something like commerce...

Twitter has claimed a majority of its users follow a brand (in late 2012 it gave the figure as 88%) so Twitter commerce may be at its best when targeting existing customers.

Combining the buy button with Twitter's Tailored Audiences feature will no doubt allow retailers to present specific impulse buys and achieve some success.

However, the fundamental experience of Twitter is one that may not be conducive to attracting new retail customers.

There are certainly no figures attributed to commerce in Twitter's revenue so far (only advertising). It's also worth remembering that Twitter users only represent around 15% of UK and US consumers and this pales in comparison to Facebook.

Unless Twitter generates intent (arguably the search function could does this in part) 'buy now' promoted posts represent a stark interruption of a user's feed.

twitter buy now

But 'Products and Places' hint at the evolution of Twitter into a multistreamed platform...

From June 2015, Twitter has been addressing this problem of allowing users to actively find richer information, on products and places.

This trial allows a separate 'product page' when a tweet is clicked showing tweets relevant to you and an associated product you can buy. See below for Twitter's example of The Martian by Andy Weir.

This ability to provide richer information within the app will be important to engaging the user and persuading them to buy.

In effect, if Twitter can create a separate commerce stream, the user may be able to switch mindsets in the app and view it as a retail rabbit hole, as well as their standard stream of friends and commentators.

the martian product page in twitter

And purchasing on mobile still makes sense for time-sensitive purchases...

The nature of mobile shopping means we often have the instinct to 'bookmark for later', so we can buy when we have more time and a bigger device.

But, as the buying process improves on mobile, it makes sense that time-limited offers (50% off today) and limited edition products (new clothing ranges, gig tickets etc) will be attractive on Twitter.

If retailers hone their tactics for social media, offering Twitter-only flash sales, for example, it's more likely they'll attract customers through this medium. 

Ben Davis

Published 1 October, 2015 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (5)


Karen Smith, Social Media Manager at

The "Buy Button" will definitely work. It will help the Twiterers to get easy information about products, and what to buy conveniently. It will also help E commerce websites to generate leads and increase visibility.

almost 3 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

I don't see how this will work. If for example I want to buy a particular McDonalds burger, do I need to wait for them to tweet about it so that I can buy? If so, this will be a problem for any retailer with more than a tiny number of products.

Or if it's only for current headline offers, won't it be very difficult for people to make repeat buys unless they have somehow bookmarked the tweet?

almost 3 years ago


Matt Lovell, Head of Customer Data, Insight & Analytics at Eurostar International Ltd.

I'm with Pete on this in that bar a small select range of brands trying to promote offers (I'm thinking the dominos, pizza huts etc. of the world where the main focus is getting in front of as many eyeballs as possible at the right time with a strong offer) I just don't see how most mainstream ecommerce sites will benefit from something that, based on every piece of research I've ever read about Twitter, goes against the main purpose people use it for...

almost 3 years ago


Peter Cunningham, Product & Marketing at Buyapowa

Other than reducing a couple of clicks in the checkout process and having a prominent call to action, it doesn't add much compared to clicking through to the brand or retailer's site and buying there which is what you can do today.

Yes if the brand or retailer hasn't optimized its landing page or checkout for mobile then the integrated buy feature might work. So it might work for small businesses that can't afford a decent CMS or web developer.

From larger brands where a customer has an existing connection with the brand, like Red Bull, Coke, Waitrose etc, I think they will still prefer to click through to the brand website.

Of course there will also be the issue of customers' almost almost buying and then heading off to see if there is a voucher code or coupon somewhere to get 30% off. So unless customers suddenly develop an impulse to buy at list price without shopping around will this really drive sales? I doubt it.

The biggest criticism is that this doesn't make the sales process itself social. There is nothing in here that rewards the recipient for bringing more people to the deal. It is just share, click and buy. Whereas if you combine concepts like smart rewards, gamification and communal milestones then you are really incentivising sharing and buying.

almost 3 years ago


Jamie Merrick, Head of Industry Insights at Demandware

Like with any medium where content meets commerce, relevancy is key. An interruption in the form of a buy button will not work when the user is not in that mindset. Good execution will depend on the understanding the retailer and twitter have of that individual at that moment in time; get it right and the visitor buys. Separating the commerce stream from the social stream might also work but I wouldn’t expect it to do as well as mixing it with social but only IF twitter can make the intersection really relevant to each visitor.

almost 3 years ago

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