Twitter follows in Facebook’s footsteps with new plans for social e-commerce

Twitter is preparing to integrate micro-payments on its platform, which will in turn present new e-commerce opportunities for brands.

Twitter is testing a ‘buy’ button, which will be located within tweets and will allow users to click on it to purchase the advertised product. Twitter’s move comes hot on the heels of Facebook’s ecommerce strategy, as the social network began testing its own ‘buy’ button in July. Not only is Twitter looking to integrate micro-payments, but with more and more brands experimenting with P2P payments and free product giveaways using tweets, the platform could soon become part of businesses’ overall strategy.

Among those testing Twitter’s ‘buy’ button are singer Pharrell Williams and fashion brand Burberry. Once users have registered their payment and shipping details, paying through Twitter would only involve two clicks. Should the trial prove successful, it is likely to become an official update to the platform in the near future. Twitter has clearly been toying with the idea of micro-payments for some time now – earlier this year it secretly experimented with the feature for a limited time.

Furthermore, Twitter is now letting banks offer their customers P2P payments by sending tweets. As of October, French bank Banque Populaire Caisse d’Epargne (BPCE) will offer its S-Money customers the chance to attach a mobile wallet to their Twitter account. This is a logical next step for banks as they continue to embrace mobile banking. As discussed previously on the blog, in order to survive in an increasingly digital financial landscape, banks need to drive innovation in the way that many start-ups do.

The potential for retailers to incorporate Twitter in their businesses has also been on show recently. In August, crisps brand Walkers unveiled three tweet-activated vending machines at London bus stops to promote its Do Us A Flavour campaign. A quick tweet to @Walkers_busstop caused the machines to produce a free packet of crisps. This use of social media is a step up from brands’ Twitter and Instagram campaigns over the summer, giving away free food in pop-up cafés.

Although just a marketing stunt, Walkers’ Twitter experiment has demonstrated the potential e-commerce benefits to brands. Once Twitter’s ‘buy’ button is officially launched, users will link their accounts to Twitter wallets, so tweeting to make purchases on the go could become the norm. The advantage of this over mobile and contactless card payments is that the brand also gains a mention on social media, increasing awareness.

Social media e-commerce has proved successful in China with WeChat, so the precedent is there for Twitter to make micro-payments work. A major concern when Twitter floated last year was how the platform would generate more revenues beyond advertising – despite launching in 2006, it only made its first profit this summer. Although a ‘buy’ button will likely be opposed by some users, it would give Twitter the chance to make quarterly profits a regular occurrence, either by taking a cut of sales or charging businesses to use it, or both. Meanwhile, brands would benefit from a new way to sell their products, while increasing their social media exposure at the same time.