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With social media buy buttons taking off, retailers should dive in now

Social media buy buttons could be the next frontier of mobile commerce as they quickly gain momentum on various platforms, with savvy retailers likely to extend into numerous outlets to gain the most benefit.

Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat are generating widespread discussion regarding commerce in social media, as they introduce buy buttons and purchasing options for consumers to shop advertisers’ merchandise. It is probable that retailers will lean towards the one or two platforms that best reflect their brand, but it cannot hurt to spread into all channels, as this is an up-and-coming field.

“It is likely that every social media app will include payment functionality since it will increase revenue opportunity through advertising, and potentially add value to the site by offering P2P payment capability to their users,” said Thad Peterson, senior analyst at Aite Group. “It is reflective of a major shift in mobile commerce.

“Payments are becoming embedded across the mobile commerce spectrum, and the rapid growth of in-app payments will accelerate the trend,” he said. “Prepare for the ability to pay for anything, any time, anywhere and on any device be it physical or virtual.

“True omni-commerce, incorporating payments, is happening.”

Social media commerce
Recently, Twitter and Facebook have introduced buy buttons into sponsored posts that allows users to purchase merchandise within the applications without having to navigate to an outside site or app. While at the same time there have been rumors of Snapchat investing into mobile shopping app Spring, eluding to a commerce feature in the mobile messaging app and Pinterest announced future buy button in posts as well.

Fashion, apparel, accessory and home décor brands will most likely head to Pinterest while technology brands are likely to take to a platform such as Twitter. However, retailers should extend into all possible areas at this time because this is a new commerce field and no one is sure which direction it will take, it is better to get involve now than miss an opportunity.

These buy buttons offer the opportunity for greater impulse buys. Users scanning social media will see something they like and without any lag, are able to purchase the item.

“Retailers need to hedge their bets and participate in any, and all social media, mobile platforms where their target audience engages,” said Ken Morris, principal, Boston Retail Partners. “Even if there is not a critical mass of your customers following you on a particular platform, it can be a valuable opportunity to attract new customers and incremental sales.

“Buy buttons will eventually account for a good share of our online purchases, as it greatly simplifies the purchase process,” he said.

The less time in between a consumer first becoming interested in a product and checking out the more likely they are to finalize the sale. The more time allowed for consumers to be distracted or change their minds, the more room there is to drop the sale.

International mobile commerce
Although social media commerce is just now starting to take off in the US, internationally it has already been established, especially in markets such as China. However, the operation is a little different, mobile messaging apps such as WeChat, Weibo and Qzone dominate with purchasing options through conversation commerce.

“Enabling direct purchases on social media platforms remains an untested but exciting prospect in the American context,” said Nikhil Joseph, analyst at Emerging Technologies Practice at Mercator Advisory Group. “It might be best for larger retailers to adopt a fast follower approach and see what strategy offers the best ROI.”

The introduction of social media commerce will not replace any other retail channel, in mobile or digital. This is simply another venture for retails to increase sale revenue and engage with consumers.

A collection of various purchasing platforms increases retailer’s chances of driving sales and offers an array of revenue channels.

Another notable addition to the mobile commerce buy button area is Google. The search giant is reportedly preparing to add buy buttons to sponsored search results on smartphones, a move that could create a new mobile shopping experience while helping drive up cost-per-click rates (see more).

Users are awaiting what will happen when Snapchat combines mobile messaging and mobile commerce with its reported recent investment in shopping application Spring, capitalizing on the growing popularity of conversational commerce (see more).

“Social media buy buttons are creating a new sales channel that will augment retailers’ existing customer touch points,” Mr. Morris said. “Just as e-commerce did not replace the brick-and-mortar store, social media selling will not replace any other channels.

“The social media buy trend is further evidence of the real-time retail trend we are seeing in the marketplace.”

Final take
Brielle Jaekel is editorial assistant at Mobile Commerce Daily