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Twitter’s “Buy” Button Boosts Small Businesses

We talk a lot about how your brand’s activity on social media helps drive conversions, but that’s a difficult thing to precisely track. You have a social conversation over here, and a purchase over there. Social data analysis can help you link the two but the distance between them sometimes still feels like the Grand Canyon.

Twitter’s “Buy” button could be a step toward bridging that gap.

Here’s how it works.


The slow build-up to “Buy”

After years of talk, Twitter began planning for the “Buy” button in earnest in 2013, when it hired former Ticketmaster CEO Nathan Hubbard to spearhead its commerce initiative. In 2014 Twitter hashed out a deal to work with Stripe, an online payments startup, to begin making “Buy” functionality available to a small number of partner brands and users.

Finally, after months of testing, Twitter announced a partnership with Shopify, Demandware, and Bigcommerce, enabling any merchant using those e-commerce platforms to begin integrating the “Buy” button in their tweets.

Additionally, in mid-September Stripe introduced Relay, an API that allows social platforms like Twitter to process orders. All a business needs to do is set up a Stripe account, add their products, and start tweeting.

In other words, pretty much any business now has the ability to use the “Buy” button in their tweets.

On the user end, consumers will see the button in their Twitter feeds alongside any link to a product. They’ll need to enter their information once, and from then on they’ll be just 2-3 quick taps away from a purchase.

The “Buy” button in action. From the main screen of their Twitter feed, users can tap the “Buy” button and be taken to a product landing page. Tapping “Buy now” confirms the purchase.

Why “Buy” is smart

Despite a sharp spike in smartphone usage over the past few years, the mobile e-commerce environment still lags far behind the desktop environment. Bulky fingers make typing billing and shipping information cumbersome, and navigating through multi-page checkout process on a tiny screen can make even the calmest folks want to tear their hair out.

Brands today behave a little like pied pipers. They use social media in the hopes of enticing potential customers to follow links back to their websites, and then crossing their fingers in the hopes of a conversion. There are a lot of steps between here and there. There are a lot of opportunities for customers to lose interest.

What the “Buy” button does is remove the product from the online storefront and place it where users like to hang out: their social apps.

Instead of bringing the people to the product, the button quite literally brings the product to the people.

So will consumers — and brands — actually want to “Buy”?

Like anything else in life, there are downsides. Overcoming user behavior could well be one. I know that I, personally, like to shop around online first for products I want. When faced with the option to “Buy now,” my inclination might be to turn to Google to see if there’s a better price offered on a different retailer’s site.

Overcoming user trust could be another. Some people are suspicious of adding personal data to yet another platform, and retail fraud involving Apple Pay earlier this year did nothing to reassure anyone.

Additionally, while brands using the “Buy” button get the much-sought-after benefit of direct organic conversions, they miss out on tracking longer threads of consumer data and lose control over the consumer’s buying experience.

Then again, the advantages could be enough to override concerns on both sides of the fence.Businesses get a new channel with which to try and attract customers, and customers get a quick, easy, mobile-optimized purchase process.

Every new technology innovation gets questioned before it gets widely adopted — why should the “Buy” button necessarily be any different?

“Even if, a few years from now, we’re talking about something completely different than buy buttons, this is the first step in bridging social activity and purchases. This is where we’re seeing that initial innovation.” — Man Crates founder founder Jon Beekman in an intervew with Digiday

How “Buy” could be a boon

So where is the “Buy” button most likely to succeed, at least in the beginning?

  1. The little guys. Big brands tend to have a lot of distribution across different retail platforms. For example, you could buy Adidas brand running tights from, but you could also buy them from Macy’s, Sports Authority’s, and Kohl’s online stores. In other words, consumers have a lot of chances to shop around for a better deal than the “Buy” button promotion may entail. Small businesses, on the other hand, generally only offer products in one place to begin with — their own online stores. In the case of “Buy,” reduced visibility works in their favor.
  2. Limited-time special opportunities. Think flash sales, tickets to a concert or show, limited-edition clothing or book runs, and so on. These are items or events that consumers won’t be able to find elsewhere online, and the restricted availability will help build a sense of urgency to make a purchase.

So would you use the “Buy” button as a consumer? Would you use it as a business owner? Let me know in the comments below.

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