Coming soon: the Facebook and Twitter sales onslaught

One trend is clear: big tech companies are getting ready for us to start using our social media feeds as online stores.

Why? Because we now spend way more time in Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram than we do anywhere else on the internet. And while ads bring in some money to these services, they need to start looking for other sources of revenue.

That means that we may soon start to see 'buy now' tags all over our social media feeds.

Twitter has already started this trend, even though it's currently limited only to US users. The company's top brass, some of whom were in Dublin last week for the Web Summit, like the way it's going.

"There's an author who launched his book on Twitter using this function and we sold 1,000 books in a couple of hours through the buy button," said Adam Bain, Twitter's president of global revenue and the company's effective second-in-command. "And access is also proving to be a big thing, the idea that you're getting something first or getting it exclusively through Twitter."

Bain isn't the only one talking up social media commerce.

Stripe's John Collison also spent quite a bit of time articulating the view that social media feeds are a logical place for retailers to target better.

"It's kind of inevitable," he said. "People are spending so much time on social network platforms, it's natural to make it easy for merchants to sell. At the moment, it's a little clumsy because you have to leave the social media stream and go through several things to actually buy something you might be interested in. But if you make it easier for people, then they'll do it."

This has interesting ramifications for existing online retailers such as Amazon. In Ireland, two-thirds of the adult population have a Facebook account. Half of that group of people use it every day. But if that's what they spend most of their online time doing, they have limited exposure to retailers.

Twitter's Bain said that the 'buy now' Twitter product indicated that 'introductory offers' in pricing were proving effective.

"This seems to get people to emotionally lean in to buy something," he said. "But there are a bunch of things also that aren't working and we're trying to look at what these triggers are to get people to buy and what things don't work. It's really early stages."

So is this the start of a new wind for online retailers or will it turn users off?

Collison speaks in general terms about overall trends in retail channels. Only 2pc of the world's transactions currently occur online, he says. Whatever way you look at it, that is likely to increase.

"One of the problems is that, by and large, people don't really buy things on their mobiles," he said. "And if you look at the way things are going, mobile is really taking over. This is one way that this will probably happen."

Collison is at the vanguard of all of this. Stripe has garnered a golden rating for facilitating companies to incorporate payments technology within their own systems, easily rivalling massive incumbents such as PayPal.

So will the other social networks be next?

Tumblr? Instagram? Pinterest?

"It's logical that social networking platforms are going to become connected in this way," Collison said - without giving anything away about Stripe's own immediate product trajectory.

The early stages of all this should be both fun and useful. It's the impulse buys we'll all have to watch out for.

Sunday Indo Business



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