Finance

Twitter makes a move into e-commerce: Will it work in the Aussie online space?

Kirsten Robb /

Twitter is moving into the e-commerce space with the launch of Twitter Offers, a feature aimed at connecting advertisers to customers through online deals.

It’s the latest effort to monetise the social platform, following the introduction of a ‘buy’ button back in September.

The social media giant said in a blog post the feature will only be available within the US, but it is believed Twitter may look at international markets if the experiment is a success.

Beginning this week with a “handful of brands”, Twitter users in the US will see a Twitter Offer pop up in their timeline, whether they follow an advertiser or not.

Customers can then add the offer to their credit or debit cards and later redeem the offer by using their cards in the retailer’s online stores or brick-and-mortar locations, without any additional coupons. The “cash back savings”, as Twitter calls them, will appear on their card statement within a few days after the purchase.

Twitter hopes to appeal to advertisers by offering a simple way to measure the return on investment of their promotions and by creating a low barrier of entry for business to get involved, given the tool requires “no change to the consumer purchase process, no employee training and no new hardware or software to install”.

“By leveraging Twitter’s robust targeting capabilities, advertisers can tailor their promotions and campaigns to the right audience, while optimising for performance,” said Twitter.

The social network addressed potential privacy concerns by saying it will encrypt and safely store credit card information, giving users the ability to remove this info from their account at anytime.

Australia has previously been touted as a major e-commerce market in the global arena, and may be a promising space if the move pays off for Twitter.

Paul Greenberg, co-founder of DealsDirect and chief executive of the National Online Retailers Association, tells SmartCompany Twitter would likely see good potential with Aussie customers.

“I think shoppers here will be happy to give a go,” says Greenberg.

“Will it work? I think a lot social media companies, such as Facebook, have tried to become active in the retail pace, but whether shoppers want to see social media mixed with business transactions remains to be seen,” he says.

“The thinking is, social is social and business is business. The minute you’re asking for a sale, does something get lost? But if they can find a compelling and authentic way to do it, maybe we’ll have a go.”

Greenberg says it’s likely Twitter will look at an Australian release of the tool, but points to other innovations, such as PayPal’s Bill Me Later, which never made it to Australia.

He says there are issues with regulation within Australia, which can deter global companies from heading to our shores, such as in PayPal’s case with Bill Me Later. But he believes other barriers, such as privacy, would be less of an issue as Australian consumers are getting over their “natural resistance” to handing over credit card information online.

Greenberg says the online retail space requires companies to test out these sorts of innovations.

“I salute Twitter and will have no less respect for them if it didn’t work,” says Greenberg.

“Now, as always, it’s in the hands the users, the shoppers, the customers.”

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Kirsten Robb

Kirsten Robb is a former journalist at SmartCompany. Previously, she worked at News Corp as a property reporter for Leader Newspapers and the Herald Sun, and holds a Masters of Journalism at Melbourne University.

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