Last week was a hot one, with Twitter announcing its acquisition of cross-channel promotions startup CardSpring, and Facebook testing a “Buy” button, joining Twitter who launched the same feature last month.
The CardSpring deal is just a deal for now – no indication of when or how this might be rolled into Twitter. There's speculation that the service will allow social offers to be applied to a credit card or loyalty card that’s registered with the service, with the offer applied at point-of-purchase.
For merchants, a clearer way to measure cross-channel response and ROI is welcome. But unless customers sign up to the program in advance, the data will only represent the opted-in audience segment.
Buy buttons are intended to support transaction completion within the social network, rather than redirecting the customer to a retailer's website.
While these moves may inch social commerce forward, they hold greater potential (if successful) for the networks themselves...
Social networks serve themselves in offering enhanced features for merchants. If buy buttons succeed, merchants and brands will become “believers” in the channel and shift more budget towards sponsored placements to expand their reach beyond their own followers.
Supporting in-app transactions benefit both Twitter and Facebook, who undoubtedly want to keep you in their environment as long as possible.
Facebook wants to be your email inbox, your news ticker, your entertainment hub, your mobile OS, your shopping mall. Twitter simply has to keep engagement metrics healthy if it wants to compensate for stalled growth and keep its investors happy.
New business models
Everyone from Amazon to Apple wants to be your payments daddy. Both the CardSpring concept and in-app purchases are a step in that direction. With Facebook’s Buy button, financial information isn’t shared with other advertisers, and shoppers can choose to save their info with Facebook for future purchases. If consumers can be groomed to make more in-app purchases, they may see the value in using their social accounts as payment methods, both in and out of the social networks.
Hedging against the competition
When it comes to acquisitions, they can be a defensive move. Many tech behemoths buy startups as a hedge against the competition, ultimately starving them. Time will tell what becomes of CardSpring.
With regards to supporting transactions within a social network, time will tell if it's a game changer, or will suffer the same fate as F-commerce. In the meantime, brands and retailers should keep in mind the following:
Social isn’t supposed to convert.
An email, tweet or social share’s job is not to convert an immediate sale, but to generate enough interest that leads to a click -- to be compelling enough for one to volunteer to leave his or her inbox or social stream to learn more about your product, and take action.
Removing friction from the buying process is of course a usability win, except it’s the product description, customer reviews, rich imagery, pricing info and company value propositions that are typically required to “convert.”
Of course, there are exception cases, but only certain brands and products can succeed with the true no-brainer, buy-right-now call to action in absence of this additional content. Think re-release of an iconic perfume. U2 tickets. New DVD release (digital version, of course). iPhone 6. Pharrell’s Grammy hat.
This may or may not be your product.
In the meantime, if you'd like to experiment and test with the appearance of the Buy Button as a clearer call to action in your Facebook posts, PerfectPost has a quick-fix offering that will link back to your site.