Buy Now: On Twitter?

Social media selling is something of a misnomer. An active social media strategy doesn’t always directly generate sales. It is part of an ongoing engagement process with customers.

Whereas in a store (digital or brick and mortar) customers directly engage with brands because they’re considering making a purchase. That’s sales. Social does contribute to making those sales, but indirectly.

That could be all about to change.

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Twitter announced in a blog that it’s working with several partners to trial a “Buy Now” button, directly within Twitter, creating an in-tweet e-commerce experience.

Media reports indicate the payment partner is Stripe, the YC alumni startup founded by Patrick and John Collison, currently worth $1.75 billion. This would be a huge win for Stripe, given Twitter’s 271 million monthly active users.

Twitter is also working with Fancy (@fancy), Gumroad (@gumroad) and Musictoday (@Musictoday) who will sell the actual goods – clothes, shoes, music, comics, e-books, fan merchandise – with the aforementioned Strip as the cash register.

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Other brands are quickly joining the bandwagon, with Home Depot, RED, Burberry, Eminem and Demi Lovato also said to be releasing products soon. Many more are expected.

Twitter and their partners know it works, are confident it is secure, and very easy to use.

It does however raise the question of:

What ROI Can Brands Expect?

Facebook, perhaps in response to Twitter, is considering doing the same. The problem is that they tried this once before and it didn’t work. They opened a store for brands to sell goods back in 2012, but closed it in 2013 “after lacklustre engagement from users.”

Facebook is the biggest source of traffic for Shopify stores, pushing 63% of visitors, with a 1.85% conversion rate and average order value of $55.00. Compared to Twitter, which in the same study is only $46.29.

But this isn’t a side by side comparison. Shopify, like all e-commerce stores, depend on traffic sources, like social media and email marketing. Email still dominates, with a very comfortable margin and a huge ROI (4300%). Can social retail ever catch up? And if so, is an in-tweet Buy Now button the answer?

It could revolutionize e-commerce. Or it could fail, like it did with Facebook. Actual user experience and the post-holiday season analysis (which is why this is being launched in time for the holidays) will provide the evidence.

With either outcome, listening to your customers social behavior, then generating real-time personalized campaigns around this data, is an invaluable way to increase your marketing returns, wherever your customers are buying your products.

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