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The Buy Button & The Power of Now

The long awaited ‘Buy’ button is finally here. It’s unlikely that you haven’t yet heard about Twitter’s announcement on Monday, and with Facebook’s fairly quiet launch of its own buy button trials in July, that’s two of the big giants dipping their toes in the water. But what does the elusive social buy button really mean for online retail?

The Power of Now

Social media is very much about the NOW, especially Twitter. Blink and the moment has passed. If retailers can really grasp this concept early on, the buy button could become a really powerful sales driver for retail brands. Sought-after products, limited availability, exclusives, flash sales and lower value items all have the potential to do well in social commerce.

It’s about emotive, buying in-the-moment impulsive transactions, and for this reason, it could be a really exciting development for charities too. 

Bigger ticket products with a typically longer, research-heavy buying process are probably going to be less excited by the buy buttons, but nevertheless, through carefully, granular targeting, may still be able to find a way to capitalise on the developments.

What’s Changed?

Social commerce has long been hailed as the phenomenon to change online retail forever, yet we haven’t seen any big successes to date. Facebook toyed with gifts and gift cards, but struggled to really make it work, and has since retired the service all together. Many retailers set up Facebook shops, but again, Facebook isn’t an everyday shopping destination, people weren’t there to shop, they were there to socialise.

So how do today’s experimental buy buttons change things?

Primarily, the social networks’ and brands’ understanding of the consumer. We get why they’re there, how they behave and we know an awful lot more about their interests, demographics and lifestyles. Expectations have also changed, and consumers are now willingly engaging with brands on social media. What was once seen as an imposition, is now a welcome interaction with a benefit or reward, whether tangible or simply catering to narcissistic desires.

Will it Work?

It’s still early days, and both Facebook and Twitter are tentatively testing their respective buy buttons with a limited selection of US retailers and artists such as Burberry (who else?!) who will be launching a range of nail colours immediately after their catwalk appearance at London Fashion Week this year, The Home Depot, Pharrell and Eminem, but despite the tentative approach, it certainly feels like the time is now right. Careful, granular targeting will give retailers a way to maximise ROI and add a personal touch of exclusivity to their product promotions, hitting the right people at the right time. Platform-specific product launches could provide a new way to reward a loyal community and flash sales will take advantage of the impulsive nature of social media and the consumer’s continual search for instant gratification.

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What Next?

The simplification of the in-app purchase process for both Facebook and Twitter overcomes the cumbersome and undesirable process of entering card details on a mobile device, with both networks giving consumers the option to save address and card details for future one-click purchasing. However, Facebook has not always ranked top of the trust charts when it comes to consumers, with questionable permissions and security breaches often hitting the headlines, and so may have a bit of a grovelling exercise on its plate to convince the consumer the giant can be entrusted with their card details.

Whilst the simplified purchase process heralds a welcome development for the mobile user experience, it also signals a distancing from the brand. With in-app transactions on both networks, there will only be minimal interaction with the brand during the purchase process. Retailers will need to think of clever ways in which to still get closer to their consumer in order to stimulate repeat purchases and brand loyalty.

Finally, with networks such as Pinterest and Instagram seeing increasing consumer demand for products showcased within the networks, it won’t be long before we see the buy button appearing there too. And with the visually focused nature of both companies, and Pinterest’s almost wish-list-like scrapbooking style, the impact of introducing buying to these networks could be even more exciting still.

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