In the Buzzfeed article that broke the news, a Twitter spokesperson claimed the company has actually increased investment in commerce by funnelling the Buy button resources into dynamic product ads.
However, dynamic product ads are simply a retargeting ad product.
Crucially they lead the customer out into the mobile web, instead of allowing purchase in the Twitter app.
What this move confirms is that social platforms can trade on their reach and on the time their users spend in app, but they can’t generate spontaneous intent.
Is social commerce an oxymoron?
In simpler terms, social media users are not in the frame of mind to buy anything.
Yes, they can be diverted to another content source, which may ultimately result in a transaction, but shopping is not a motivating factor when opening Twitter.
Put like that, it seems obvious that the Buy button was going to be a hard sell.
Indeed that’s what some of our readers thought, commenting on our cautiously optimistic review in September 2015 (we hold our hands up!).
Only WeChat has cracked it
The failure of the Buy button surely isn’t only a matter of changing the mindset of Twitter users.
It’s also clear that Twitter’s user base (23% of online adults) isn’t in a healthy enough position to justify significant investment in embedded commerce.
Yes, WeChat has succeeded in commerce, but its platform is much more diverse and it has many more users (c. 70% of Chinese internet users).
WePay is linked to more than 200m bank accounts and WeChat’s service accounts make browsing and buying on the network more like the mobile web (often beginning with user intent).
Twitter was working on developing its card structure, seen below, to diversify the platform but though this ad product may continue, the ‘Buy on Twitter’ call to action will change.
Involved setup was simply not worth it for retailers
It must also be said that Twitter had a difficult job in gaining momentum with embedded commerce due to the partnership structure.
Sending structured data to Twitter isn’t a simple task, so commerce merchants had to work with their platform partners such as Shopify.
Bigger brands partnered directly with Twitter using Stripe Relay (a product info API).
Where Tailored/Custom Audiences present few technical barriers to new advertisers ‘taking a punt’ on social, this Buy-button set up is relatively complex.
Doubtless marketers had other priorities, given the almost total lack of successful case studies in the market.
So, a perfect storm of perhaps a slightly misjudged product and little uptake.
Still, expect further investment in video advertising and dynamic product ads to leave Twitter feeling more consumerist by this time next year.