Twitter may seem like just another place to discover news and celebrity gossip, but its potential use in eCommerce has been downplayed until recently. What if you could buy the newest pair of Nike's as soon as you find out about them through a Tweet and a hashtag? Or what if your up-and-coming retail brand could reach hundreds of thousands of potential customers for little to no marketing budget?
Through partnerships with American Express for Tweet enabled payments, and startups like Chirpify allowing users to '#buy' with hashtags, the popular social network may mature into the new checkout screen. In the same way that consumers were gradually acclimated to buying clothes and groceries online, the potential for consumers to shop directly through Twitter or other social networks is the next potential progression.
While still in its infant stages, social media enabled eCommerce is a potential disruptor along the lines of Amazon's product recommendation engine and eBay's use of real time bidding systems. As of 2013, 30% of eCommerce purchasers were influenced by social media content from friends. In addition to Tweeted purchases, an increasing number of consumers are also resorting to a brand's Twitter account to reach customer service, learn about deals, and engage in product promotions.
As the necessary processes continue to be refined, it is likely that social networks will play a central role in eCommerce growth for many businesses.
Brand Ambassadors and Influencers Can Act As Digital Salesmen
Where as in the past, Michael Jordan or Lebron James were used to champion products, everyday users are becoming equally effective brand ambassadors. Rather than spending millions on celebrity endorsements, brands can utilize prolific (every-day) social media users to gain exposure amongst their thousands of followers. Findings from a recent Market Force survey detailed how 81% of surveyed consumers cited social networking recommendations as having a direct impact on their purchase decisions. While shopping in-store or online, the quickest place to receive trusted opinion is often from your close contacts within your network.
Within a 140 character Tweet, the potential buyer can become aware of the product by a cool celebrity or trusted influencer while simultaneously being offered the option to purchase right then and there. On social media, there is a growing class of recognized influencers and brand ambassadors with massive social followings who will passionately vilify or glorify a product. By capitalizing on these third party product evangelists, a brand can incorporate a new channel for streamlining consumers into the buying funnel. Social media activity can essentially combine many of the important elements of the purchase funnel to streamline the buying process.
An Ideal Way To Capture Mobile Transactions
One major challenge that eCommerce businesses face is the proliferation of mobile devices and mobile consumers. Given Twitter's well designed mobile app, the use of Tweets for sales may appeal most to mobile users. As of 2013, more than 60% of Twitter users access the app and the site through their mobile phones (that's over 100 million people). While optimizing the design of your website for tablets and smartphones and adjusting your digital marketing strategy to attend to mobile channels is important, brands should attend to emerging opportunities in mobile social media use. To further substantiate this shift, as of January 2013, eMarketer found that US shoppers conducted over $38 billion worth of eCommerce transactions via mobile devices.
Given the intuitive usability of Tweeting 140 characters rather than filling out entire contact forms and credit card credentials, mobile may be the ideal landscape for social eCommerce on Twitter to take off. Although purchasing via Tweets and hashtags can benefit consumers in certain instances, it will not replace the eCommerce website. If anything, the Twitter eCommerce aspect will be a way to augment a brand's reach and exposure. By reigning in new customer transactions through a special offer Tweet localized according to mobile data, there is a high chance for that customer to visit your main website as well.
Redefining the Online Marketplace
One part marketing and one part eCommerce, Twitter enabled eCommerce may very well be the next big thing in shopping. Given the recent hire of former President of Ticketmaster, Nathan Hubbard, as Head of eCommerce, and Twitter strategically positioning itself for its impending IPO on the New York Stock Exchange, there is much to expect from the company in terms of experimenting with new revenue generators. Hubbard stated his goal at the company as incorporating commerce into the real-time flow of information throughout the Twitter-verse:
"Just like Twitter is a platform for discussion of everything, from a commerce perspective, we're going to be a platform for the sale of whatever is a part of the conversation on Twitter."
As more of Twitter's acquisitions and hires emerge, eCommerce appears to be a definite pillar in their growth strategy.