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Twitter takes yet another quiet step toward e-commerce market

August 13, 2014

Twitter has tested yet another e-commerce feature in a roll-out characterized by no warnings and zero comments.

Twitter has tested yet another e-commerce feature in a roll-out characterized by no warnings and zero comments. 

The social media company’s Android app recently leaked a “payment and shipping” option in its list of preferences, according to Tech Times. This isn’t the microblogging website’s first subtle hint at a coming move toward online retail. In recent months mock-up pages and other features such as “buy buttons” have cemented the popular belief that Twitter will soon enter the e-commerce market. However, despite the recent flurry of retail-oriented moves the company has remained decidedly quiet on the subject, the media outlet reported. Twitter has made a habit of small-scale tests – such as this most recent change made to its Android app. 

A recent history of quiet changes for Twitter
Re/code in January first reported Twitter’s e-commerce interests when the website uncovered mock-ups put together by e-commerce platform Fancy meant to illustrate how users may eventually purchase items directly through tweets. After Re/code contacted Fancy in regard to the mock-ups, the public section of the company’s website where the photos were found was made password locked. The discovery was prefaced by Twitter’s decision to hire away Ticketmaster’s Nathan Hubbard as its new head of commerce. 

Last May came with an announcement that the social media company had implemented a feature allowing its users to add items to their Amazon shopping carts directly through tweets, noted Re/code. 

Re/code again, in June, reported a discreet move made by Twitter to integrate e-commerce – this time “buy buttons” appeared in tweets apparently generated by Fancy. Not surprisingly, both companies’ spokesmen declined to comment on the occurrence. 

Twitter has a long history of neglecting the e-commerce sphere, with executives in the company often indecisive about fully embracing online retail, according to Re/code. The website has in the past struck deals with third-party companies such as American Express and Starbucks, though in-house purchasing options have never been fully utilized. 

One e-commerce deal set up between Twitter and American Express allows users who sync their cards with Twitter to tweet #AmexBestBuy and earn credit statements after spending $250 at Best Buy, explained Re/code. Twitter recently acquired startup Cardspring in a move apparently made to allow for further exploration of similar possibilities – the online service helps companies link marketing programs with shoppers’ cards. 

This could lead to a multi-channel e-commerce platform that allows Twitter users to receive special deals on in-store purchases, the publication reported. 

The melding of commerce and social media
Twitter’s recent actions come as the e-commerce market provides lucrative new opportunities for businesses. Facebook recently announced a new move toward online retail – despite past failures, according to Information Week. In July Twitter’s social media rival announced that ads for small to midsize businesses on the website would feature “buy buttons,” allowing users to make purchases without leaving their Facebook news feeds. 

Both companies will need to find ways to successfully meld social media streams with purchasing channels, which could prove challenging, Tyler Roye, CEO and co-founder of social gifting company eGifter, told Information Week. Too much disruption to the stream of information users are used to could be a nuisance rather than an opportunity.

The recent moves from both companies represent a new level of maturity in the social networking sphere, Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter Group, told Information Week. 

“Both companies have had priorities other than commerce, such as building their networks, making them indispensable, and fine-tuning their algorithms to keep them fresh,” he said. “Businesses are sort of asking for it now because there has got to be much more than just content at play. They’re pushing for commerce now, too.”

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