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Amazon takes a stab at social shopping with Twitter-enabled commerce

Amazon hopes that the amount of product discovery and shopping taking place on Twitter from smartphones and tablets will translate into some sales with the launch of a new partnership that drives traffic to the online giant’s Web and mobile platforms.

Amazon’s new initiative is called #AmazonCart and turns any link in a tweet into a shopping cart that hooks up with an Amazon account. The initiative is also the latest effort from Twitter to sell marketers and advertisers on programs that turn their presence on the site into a new revenue stream.

“Clearly there’s a perception that people are mostly watching their Twitter feeds go by while they are on the go,” said Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at Retail Systems Research, Miami.

“I confess I’m a little surprised at this,” she said. “I would’ve thought a link from Pinterest would be more effective, but I imagine the Twitter API was easier to implement, and definitely more relevant to the mobile world. If it works, I’ve got to believe Pinterest will follow.”

Ms. Rosenblum is not affiliated with Amazon. She spoke based on her expertise on the subject.

Save on mobile
Amazon’s strategy for #AmazonCart is meant to take advantage of the amount of links and product referrals that consumers are passing around on Twitter.

First, Twitter users need to connect their Twitter account to Amazon.

Then when a consumer sees a Amazon link in a tweet with a product that they are interested in, they can reply to the tweet using the hashtag #AmazonCart.

Tweeting the hashtag triggers the product to be saved in an Amazon user’s shopping cart. A reply tweet from @MyAmazon and an email will notify consumers when an item is added to their Amazon shopping cart.

Shoppers can then log-in and buy the item later via Amazon’s mobile or Web properties.

There is also a British version of the campaign that leverages the #AmazonBasket hashtag.

“Twitter offers a great environment for our customers to discover product recommendations from artists, experts, brands and friends,” said Julie Law, spokeswoman at Amazon, Seattle.

Amazon’s #AmazonCart is the online retailer’s attempt to turn some of the engagement happening on Twitter into actual sales.

However, Amazon is not known for driving impulse buys, so it is not clear how many consumers will log back in to buy the saved items from Twitter.

Retailers in general have also struggled to monetize social in the past, leaving some analysts to question how much of a shopping appetite there is on Twitter for Amazon.

“There’s no evidence that anyone really buys much on Twitter,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, New York-based principal analyst at Forrester Research. “There are some anecdotal stories like the Dell outlet, but Twitter isn’t really a great commerce medium.

“There are some interesting marketing stories that Chirpify has created with Twitter like the Oreo cookie example and if Amazon uses this for marketing efforts, that makes sense, but [I’m] not really sure that Amazon needs Twitter,” she said. “They have plenty of traffic and demand independent of any social network, mobile or otherwise.”

Trialing Twitter shopping?
#AmazonCart is the newest addition to Twitter’s ongoing attempts to attract retailers to the social platform.

American Express tested a similar Twitter program last year that linked up a credit card with specific hashtags. Compared to Amazon’s current effort, American Express’ campaign was set up so that transactions were automatically completed from tweets (see story).

Starbucks also integrated Twitter into a campaign called Tweet-a-Coffee that let consumers send gift cards by linking a hashtag and loyalty program account together (see story).

Despite the fact that Amazon may not be as well-known for impulse shopping, #AmazonCart certainly gives the online retail giant a more active role in the growing instant shopping category.

“Overall, what it tells me is that there’s a real battle for the ‘basics’ going on out there,” Ms. Rosenblum said.

“Subscribe and Save, Target Subscriptions and now AmazonCart — everyone wants a piece of the basics action,” she said. “It strikes me as a little odd; not a lot of gold in them thar hills, but I suppose I could say in our short attention span-theater society, it’s a convenient way to remember something you might otherwise have forgotten.”

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York