It’s already the go-to place for many web surfers seeking news, pictures, video clips and pithy, 140-character witticisms. Now real-time social media network Twitter aims to become an online shopping centre as well.
The micro-blogging site has announced it has started testing a buy button involving a limited number of commercial partners and a small proportion of users in the US, which will grow over time. The feature is initially being limited to Twitter’s mobile versions.
The move marks a concerted effort by the social media platform to make money in other ways than through advertising revenue.
Essentially, a button will sit inside a tweet and allow people to click to make a purchase direct from within the message.
While users have previously been able to buy things through the social media platform, doing this had centred on users sending special messages publicly, incorporating a particular hashtag so that the sale of an item could be confirmed.
Under the planned new method, the buy button would be used alongside messages which promoted a specific service or product, Twitter said in a blog post.
After buyers have clicked, they will be asked to input delivery and payment information. If a user is pre-registered with a particular brand, and already known to them, they will be requested to hit the button again so the sale can be confirmed.
According to Twitter, already nearly 20 partners have registered to take part in the tests, including not-for-profit organisation Nature Conservancy, the fashion brand Burberry and Diamonds pop singer Rihanna.
In an interview with the New York Times, the head of ecommerce for Twitter, Nathan Hubbard, said the first items bought using the button would probably be time-limited, for example event tickets or limited edition products.
The announcement comes at a time of increasing competition in the world of mobile e-commerce, with many social networks clearly seeing ecommerce as potentially highly lucrative.
By giving users of these sites the chance to purchase advertised products straight away, a fee can be charged for facilitating the transaction. At the same time, users can also be prevented from leaving the site or app to make the purchase.
Twitter said in its blog post: “This is an early step towards allowing us to help make shopping from mobile devices convenient and easy, hopefully even fun. Users will be able to access merchandise and offers they can’t get anywhere else and act on them in Twitter apps for Android and iOS.
“Meanwhile, sellers will have a new way to convert the direct relationship they have built with followers into sales.”
However, while there has been a lot of experimenting, so far no platform has launched buying technology on a broad basis – yet. That could be about to change, and soon.