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.